I need to quote my friend Emily, who saw this production with me, when she said, “Anyone who doesn’t like this is an a**h**e.” When you have that many talented kids on stage, playing real instruments at an extremely professional level, delivering Andrew Lloyd Webber songs and dancing with incredible energy, if you don’t like it, there’s probably IS something wrong with your soul.
This thing is a complete delight from beginning to end. Is it Andrew Lloyd Webber’s greatest work? No. Is the script as clever as you’d usually expect from Julian Fellowes? No again. But the rather ordinary material is absolutely transcended by the delights of watching these kids excel at everything.
And it isn’t just the kids. Nick Druzbanski not only steps into the beloved Jack Black role, but he basically channels the guy. It’s a seamless transition from the beloved film to this performance, and he absolutely has the vocal chops to pull it off. He was just great.
The surprise for all of us is, I think, Veronica Garza as Principal Rosalie Mullins. The first time we hear her sing she’s belting out Mozart’s Queen of the Night aria from Die Zauberflote and then she gets the biggest song of the show powering through Where Did the Rock Go like Anne Wilson fronting Heart. She’s incredible in this role and additionally has excellent comic timing.
The whole comedy ensemble is terrific, standouts are Lucy Godinez as Patty, Jackson Evans as Noel Schneebley and Mary Robin Roth as Mrs. Scheinkopf. They’re a joy the second they come on stage and do a fabulous job.
I was unable to attend on opening night, but saw this production at the Sunday 1 p.m. matinee. Because of the rules for child actors, the swing cast of children was at work at the performance I saw. They were superb. It’s a musical, so we know they really sang and danced, but the kids “in the band” also really played. At the performance we saw it was Elias Totleben as Zack on lead guitar, Maya Keane as Katie on Bass, Leighton Tantillo as Freddy on Drums, and Gabriel Solis as Lawrence on Keys. Singer Tomika was played by Naya Rosalie James and bossy band manager Summer was Meena Sood. They sounded great and you’d have thought they were the main cast. They’re that good. So have no fear about which performance you attend.
Honestly, this production is several hours of pure charm and a lovely way to end the Paramount’s season. Head on down to Aurora and treat yourself to basking in the talent of the next generation. Tickets are available at the Paramount Box Office and the show runs through June 4.
Photos by Liz Lauren