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April onstage

Popular musicals take the lead

School of Rock PHOTO ©Matthew Murphy



School of Rock at Shea’s


When Dewey Finn is kicked out of his rock band, he becomes a substitute teacher at a private school, where he shares his passions with the students, encouraging them to form a group to compete at the Battle of the Bands. School of Rock, originally a 2003 Jack Black film, shifts considerably in its adaptation to the stage: first, the story is more focused on the kids, and second, it features the pop sounds of Andrew Lloyd Webber alongside some rock tunes.


“Something that most people don’t know is that Andrew Lloyd Webber’s wife is the one who told him this would be his next musical,” shares dance captain Christopher DeAngelis. “She went after the rights for him, because he’s very big on children’s music education. I thought that was pretty impressive.”


It’s not surprising, then, that the show allows for more development of the kids. “We don’t see as much of the teachers and the parents; it really is focused on the children and watching them find out who they are,” DeAngelis says. “They go from children with very little personality, almost robots, to each having an identity. It’s really about allowing children to be who they are, and not what we want them to be or think they should be. In the process, we learn as well.”


Though the show features sixteen children aged nine to thirteen, families are enjoying it, and there is nothing offensive in it, DeAngelis maintains that it’s a show for adults, particularly those who remember the movie and enjoy seeing it brought to life. “It’s a good adaptation,” he says. “I’m not a Jack Black fan, but… they’ve done a great job of making such an aggressive character work on the stage. He’s very gruff and everything has to be his way, but they’ve done a great job of showing how he’s affecting the other adults, how he’s teaching the kids, but, at the same time, finding himself, which is something a lot of people go through late in life when their dreams aren’t coming true.”


Interestingly, in the process of working with kids for the first time, DeAngelis also discovered that he enjoys teaching. When the tour started in Rochester in September 2017, “we were dealing with brand new children, some who had never toured before, some who had never done a professional show at this level, and getting them used to eight shows a week. It’s quite a lot. But it’s fascinating to give them a note, and watch them figure it out.  Of course, if one kid finds something, they all want to do it, and it’s like, ‘No, that’s something they created; you can’t take that away from them.’”


Perhaps for all these reasons, “Stick It To The Man” is DeAngelis’ favorite number in the show. “It’s the kids letting go, which I think is kind of fun. They’re learning that it’s OK to express themselves.”


School of Rock runs April 3-8 at Shea’s (sheas.org, 847-0850).





The Full Monty, by Terrence McNally and David Yazbek, at Subversive Theatre Collective


Synopsis: Inspired by their wives’ enthusiasm for Chippendales, six unemployed Buffalo steelworkers decide to put on a strip show of their own, which is sure to be a great success because they’ll go “the full monty.” Preparing for the show becomes a window into their fears and anxieties, and leads them to find strength in each other and themselves.


This musical is an American adaptation of Simon Beaufoy’s 1997 British film of the same name. It broke box office records when it premiered at San Diego’s Old Globe in 2000, before moving to Broadway for a nearly two-year run. It was nominated for ten Tonys, and a dozen Drama Desk Awards, but only took home the Drama Desk for Best Music. Perhaps it would have done better if another musical hadn’t opened right before award season: The Producers.


In 2013, Beaufoy premiered a comedy stage play, also based on his successful film; it won Best Touring Production at the UK Theatre Awards.


Composer/lyricist David Yazbek was a newcomer to Broadway when he joined forces with multiple Tony winner Terrence McNally. He’s since gone on to write music and lyrics for Broadway’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, and this season’s hit, The Band’s Visit. Yazbek—who cowrote the theme song for PBS’s Where In The World is Carmen Sandiego?—got the job when former bandmate Adam Guettel turned down the gig from director Jack O’Brien.


Though The Full Monty is set in Buffalo, it’s never been produced in the city. The closest was Artpark in 2006, and Toronto, where the North American tour kicked off in 2001, and where chicken wings may or may not have been served at the gala opening.


What they said: “There was something nervous-making in the idea of transplanting the plot to Buffalo for an all-American musical, a form that demands that everything be big. Scaling up the film’s tear-jerking and ribald qualities and substituting the rah-rah antics of Buffalo Bills fans for scrappy soccer enthusiasts seemed to be a sure recipe for shattering charm. The transformation is not without casualties. The characters in the musical are drawn more in crayon than in charcoal: they are baldly exaggerated types, defined by two or three large personality traits and no discernible interior life… Yet while The Full Monty may not be subtle, it isn’t shameless… Even those who go expecting to sneer are likely to be surprised by the smiles that keep sneaking onto their faces.”—Ben Brantley, New York Times, 2000


“Thursday night’s crowd loved this musical comedy. The mostly female audience cheered, hooted, and yelped at every reference to Buffalo and many of the suggestive exchanges and lyrics.”—Anne Neville, Buffalo News, 2006   


The Full Monty begins at Subversive Theatre Collective April 12 (subversivetheatre.org, 408-0499).



This month at a glance:

School of Rock runs April 3-8 at Shea’s (sheas.org, 847-0850).

O’Connell and Company opens I Do, I Do on April 5 (oconnellandcompany.com, 848-0800).

Smell of the Greasepaint, Roar of the Crowd hits Lancaster Opera House April 6 (lancopera.org, 683-1776).

The Full Monty begins at Subversive Theatre Collective April 12 (subversivetheatre.org, 408-0499).

Alleyway starts the annual Buffalo Quickies April 19 (alleyway.com, 852-2600).

Jewish Repertory Theatre opens Sight Unseen April 19 (jewishrepertorytheatre.com, 888-718-4253).

The Awful Truth opens April 20 at Irish Classical Theatre Company (irishclassicaltheatre.com, 853-4282).

Shea’s presents Phantom of the Opera beginning April 23 (sheas.org, 847-0850).

MusicalFare presents Once starting April 26 (musicalfare.com, 847-0850).

Kavinoky welcomes The Foreigner beginning April 27 (kavinokytheatre.com, 829-7668).

Road Less Traveled Productions presents The Christians beginning April 27 (roadlesstraveledproductions.org; 629-3069).


Also playing (in order of closing):

Jesus Christ, Superstar closes at American Repertory Theater of Western New York on March 31 (artofwny.org, 634-1102).

Road Less Traveled Productions closes Disgraced March 31 (roadlesstraveledproductions.org; 629-3069).

That Championship Season closes April 7 at New Phoenix (newphoenixtheatre.org, 853-1334).     


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