‘School of Rock: The Musical’ is bigger than Jack Black — and here’s why you shouldn’t miss it

Rob Colletti was a high school junior when the hit movie, “School of Rock,” came out. Now, 15 years later, he’s taking on the Jack Black role of Dewey Finn in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical version of the movie, which plays at the Aronoff Center throughout next weekend.

“I saw (the movie) when it came out,” Colletti said. “I was a huge Jack Black fan and I was also just hitting my stride in my musical discovery. I grew up with my dad playing that music, though his tastes were mellower. The movie added Black Sabbath.”

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The story is familiar to many. Finn is a down-on-his-luck rock star wannabe living off his roommate. By chance, he lands a job as a substitute teacher, where he throws out the math textbooks and turns the classroom into a rock school. Naturally, Finn and the kids end up having more to teach each other than how to play The Doors in perfect harmony. According to Colletti, the musical expands greatly on the movie.

“There are two new levels of storytelling,” he said. “First, the relationship between Dewey and Rosalie, the principal, is amplified. There’s also a storyline about the kids, how they’re not listened to by their parents and how they’re being pushed into lives they didn’t choose. There’s a reason why the movie was two hours and the musical is two and a half. Even audiences who know the ending are surprised.”

In addition to retaining all of the classic rock songs from the movie, the Webber score adds 14 more songs.

“(The score) hearkens back to (Webber’s) ‘Jesus Christ Superstar,’ which was a rock opera,” Colletti said. “It’s all guitar, piano, bass and drums. There are no brass or woodwinds. It’s just a rock band in a pit. And the kids play songs onstage, too. I’ve never yet seen an audience that isn’t on their feet at the end.”

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Because a major part of the movie’s appeal was Jack Black’s idiosyncratic brand of physical comedy, Colletti said he felt obligated to replicate that performance, but only to a certain extent.

“I’m very intent on not doing a Jack Black impression,” he said. “I’ll be building on what he did, because it’s iconic for a reason. But it wasn’t just him. If you look at old footage of Mick Jagger and Angus Young, you can see their physicality in (Black’s) performance. It was very specific and it just happened to fit his sense of humor.”

Colletti added that he’s applying his own life experiences to the trials that Finn endures.

“I’ve had my share of failure, too,” he said. “I’ve been dismissed, fired, told no. I use the implications of the lessons I’ve learned.”

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What: "School of Rock: The Musical"

When: Feb. 22-March 4; 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: Aronoff Center for the Arts, 650 Walnut St., Cincinnati

Cost: $30 and up

More Info: 513-621-2787 or www.cincinnatiarts.org.

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