A group of kids in school uniforms stand onstage in a line. In front of them is a burly man with a beard playing guitar at the left of the photo, and a boy with another guitar standing on the right of the photo in front of them.
Nick Druzbanski (front left) plays Dewey Finn in School of Rock at Paramount Theatre. Credit: Liz Lauren

The idea of turning Richard Linklater’s brilliant 2003 film comedy, School of Rock (about a struggling guitarist/substitute teacher coaching his prep-school students on how to, well, rock), into a Broadway musical sounds like a great one. All you need is a book writer capable of preserving the wit and warmth of Mike White’s screenplay, a songwriting team capable of matching the inspired numbers in the original, and a cast as good as the talent in the movie (Jack Black, Sarah Silverman, Joan Cusack, Mike White, Amanda Cosgrove). Uh-oh. 

Well, the version squeezed out by Andrew Lloyd Webber (yes—sigh—he was the guy who bought the rights, oversaw the, um, adaptation, and wrote some of the tunes) is not that bad. Julian Fellowes’s book is OK. The scenes lifted from the movie work pretty well onstage—the new scene not so much.

School of Rock
Through 6/4: Wed 1:30 and 7 PM, Thu 7 PM, Fri 8 PM, Sat 3 and 8 PM, Sun 1 and 5:30 PM; Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora, 630-896-6666, paramountaurora.com, $38-$79

But the score feels small and unimpressive, even the songs from the movie. And that goes double for Webber’s forgettable, derivative tunes.The Paramount revival, directed by Trent Stork, strives mightily to wring an entertaining evening out of this mild material. But the production invites comparison to the movie at every turn—Nick Druzbanski, playing Black’s character, Dewey Finn, even looks a little like Black—and falls flat. But, really, it would be unfair to measure this fine, professional cast against the brilliant one in Linklater’s movie. They are hobbled at every turn by the script and the score. I suspect the flaws in this musical were baked in the moment Webber got his middlebrow mitts on the material. Webber is the last person who would heed Black’s advice from the movie: You’re not hardcore unless you live hardcore.