Through a partnership with the Straz, the following post is a guest sponsored post written by Maria Mora. All opinions are intellectual property of the author.
I consider myself very lucky that both my kids (9 and 11) are huge fans of Broadway musicals. Evening shows are still a little late for my third grader, so my sixth grader accompanied me to School of Rock for opening night at the Straz in Tampa. To be honest, it was a bit more like me chauffeuring him since he had a lot more interest in seeing the show than I did. (Parenting win?)
I’m a big Andrew Lloyd Webber fan, and I enjoyed the original film, but this was never high on my list. My son, on the other hand, who has taken drumming in the past, was beyond excited for a chance to see kids his age performing on stage. Our last show at the Straz was Rent, so this time around I didn’t expect to have as much to discuss afterwards.
(That actually didn’t turn out to be true — more on that later.)
As always, the experience of attending a show at the Straz was great all around. We got there early (critical if you don’t want to deal with limited parking.) I brought a book for my son, and he enjoyed some quiet reading time in the lobby and in our seats, which we received courtesy of the Straz in exchange for an honest review. Our view from Row T was great, even after being spoiled by second row seats from the rush line when we saw Rent.
The show started off a little slowly for me. (I wanted to see the kids!) But my son was enthralled from the very start. He got a lot of laughs out of pop culture references, and as soon as the kids showed up on stage he was hooked to every note.
School of Rock has a lovely private school set and some innovative sets for Dewey’s apartment and rock stages. After seeing shows that use pretty elaborate sets, I enjoyed this toned down look and the creativity of the classrooms and school hallways.
This cast was fantastic, with every major role performed impeccably. I loved the lead’s nods to Jack Black’s performances — especially when he’s performing in Tenacious D. My son didn’t get it and just thought he was hilarious. Plenty of slapstick humor for little ones to appreciate.
Some of the older kid/adult humor didn’t strike a chord (heh) with me. Jokes about a gay child seemed more at his expense than laughing with him, and the stereotyped clues to his sexuality were lazy writing. That being said, my sixth grader didn’t catch on to anything that was meant to clue the audience that the kid was gay. (He loved Barbra Streisand, wanted to be a fashion designer, and made several flamboyant exclamations.) I expected better from a musical geared toward family, that ultimately had a lovely message about letting kids express themselves.
My other beef was that the main adult female roles were essentially fun-killers. Several jokes were about how shrill/bitchy the women were, and that’s a tired narrative in 2018.
Now those moments of discomfort aside, the story overall resonates with parents and kids alike. I loved the messages of letting kids take control of their learning styles, letting them find their voices and be heard, and embracing the arts.
And those kids! The performances were unbelievable. Had Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber not popped up in a recording before the show, I wouldn’t have believed the kids were really playing. Overall, this is a fun and high energy show perfect for elementary and middle school aged kids. If you’re tuned into any of the more problematic elements, they’re not deal-breakers but great openings for ongoing discussions with your kids. ]
Check out School of Rock with your family now through Sunday evening at the Straz in Tampa. And don’t forget to grab a brownie at the little outdoor restaurant by the lobby. They’re SO good.