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School of Rock On Stage at Selma Arts Center

IN THE August 8 ISSUE

FROM THE 2018 Articles,
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by Terrance Mc Arthur

Do you remember School of Rock with Jack Black, where he pretends to be a substitute teacher and transforms his class of fifth-graders into a rock band? Well, they turned it into a stage musical, including a bunch of new songs with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber—yeah, the Cats and Phantom of the Opera and JC Superstar guy—and a script by Julian Fellowes, who created Downton Abbey.

After you’ve put your mind around that, scurry down to the Selma Art Center, where their New Teen Theatre Company is going to amaze you with a solid production that doesn’t look or sound like a high-school show.

Kicked out of a band he had started, Dewey (Elijah Nichols) sponges off his friend Ned (Jayromy Mercado), whose bossy girlfriend (Erin Forgey) hates Dewey. When a call comes in from a high-class private school for Ned, a subbing job offering enough money to pay his back rent, Dewey impersonates his friend. At the school, he has to contend with Principal Rosalie Mullins (Olivia Hayes) and a roomful of smart kids who are used to going by all the rules that Dewey proceeds to break.

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Cast of “School of Rock”

Nichols is loud, sloppy, shameless, and all the endearing qualities of Jack Black. He doesn’t look like a hero, and he doesn’t act like a hero. He’s a bumbling human, like the rest of us, trying to live his dream, which is why he really is a hero.

Hayes is starchy and repressed, at first, suspicious of Dewey but needing a teacher. Eventually, the wild, Stevie-Nicks-loving side peeks through, revealed in hair, costume, and attitude. It’s a sweet transformation, and her song “Where Did the Rock Go?” is a tender revelation of character sung over and around a sturdy bar booth.

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Alexis-Long Mayberry, Elijah Nichols, Danielle Ragat’z, Sydnee Rose Martinez

Mercado, who was very funny in River City Theatre’s Legends: One-Hit Wonders, plays a milquetoast character with memories of a rock & roll life. He’s meek, nervous, and oh-so-funny as someone with the dreams knocked out of him. Forgey gets to play bossy, terrorizing the males, yet she is a lovely young thing. As Rosalie’s assistant, Faith McKesson pulls fantastic laughs out of a single “Hmmm.”

On the classroom side, all the kids playing students work together as a team, and the group numbers are standouts. Every parent needs to hear “If Only You Would Listen.”

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Jayromy Mercado and Elijah Nichols

Danielle Ragat’z is a bossy, rule-following student who becomes a whatever-has-to-be-done manager of the band. Lalaina Rabetsimba is a guitarist with a father with no time or patience for a kid; she is riveting, stately, and exudes class. Tahina Rabetsimba, as a boy from a blue-collar household trying to give him a better chance to succeed, becomes the drummer, a pint-sized powerhouse. Anysah Galvan is Tomika, supported by her two dads, but shy and withdrawn until she starts to sing, and then the energy turns on full—lovely.

Some of the songs were written by Black and others who made the film, but the majority have music by Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Glenn Slater. Adrian Oceguera’s direction keeps everything on track, and Ben Deghand’s choreography is energetic and gets the best use out of the young cast. The whole idea of the new company is to provide an outlet for young people who are too old for children’s theatre, but not likely to be cast in adult productions. This first outing promises great things for the future.

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Olivia Hayes, and the cast of “School of Rock the Musical”

School of Rock plays at the Selma Arts Center, 1935 High Street, through August 11. The Friday evening (7 p.m.) and Saturday matinee (2 p.m.) shows feature sign language interpreting on the left side of the auditorium by a talented group of young people. For information and tickets call (559) 891-2238 or go to their website.

If you love local theatre, be sure to check out our new Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. The first 3 episodes are now up! You can check the podcast out on iTunes and Google Play, and also on podbean.

Check out more theatre reviews & other local entertainment articles in our Arts & Entertainment section.

Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a Librarian with the Fresno County Public Library and has published several short stories.

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