TAP’s School of Rock Production – Well-Played
By Denise Marsh. Photos by Frank Koester, Town-Crier Newspaper.
How many times in your life have you been offered a FREE ticket to see an absolute masterpiece of a show? The public was fortunate enough to be gifted tickets to see Jaycie Cohen’s T.A.P. production of “School of Rock” for three limited performances. This 2003 movie adapted to a screen play is based on Jack Black’s character “Fin,” who is thrown out of his bar band and is desperately seeking work. Fin accepts a job as a substitute music teacher in an elite elementary school, where he is challenged by parents, teachers, students and Principal Mullins.
Jaycie Cohen’s rendition of “Dewey Finn” is a comical and wacky interpretation of Black’s performance; everything from mannerisms, appearance, style and wit are displayed to a tee. With Cohen also serving as TAP’s artistic director, this cast is held together tightly with precision and an air of confidence.
We meet Dewey goofing off with this bar band, trying to “steal the show” while his band members give him the cold shoulder. (“I’m Too Hot for you”). He simply does not “fit in” and yet he puts on a great air of self-confidence to hide all of his insecurities.
Dewey’s roommates, Ned and Patty (Kole Rosin and Patty Di Marco) are fed up with his laissez-faire attitude about life as they work hard to pay for bills and their home. The rent is due, and Dewey gives excuses on “giving it a later time” but he’s run out of “time” and the band has thrown him out. The couple encourages him to get another job or “get out” once and for all.
The real action begins when Dewey is offered a substitute teaching position at Horace Green, one of the top private elementary schools. This would’ve been the perfect job…if Dewey had ever taught before. He figures “how hard could it be to teach kids?” Anyone could do It, he assumes, unaware of the challenges that lay ahead.
Jaycie Cohen as Dewey Finn, talking to Principal Mullins (Dorothy Romano)
Horace Green student excellence and discipline are not expected but assumed (“Here at Horace Green”): Dewey must simply “do the job” to get the rent money and then he can leave (or so he thinks). Mrs. Mullins (Dorothy Romano) is brilliant as the stern principal of the school whose main focus is to “make the parents smile” has her playful side exhibiting a love for the artist, Stevie Nicks (“Where did the Rock Go?”).
The students of Horace Green are brilliantly played by 16 actors as young as 7 years old, each pulling their weight to create an air of snobby, entitled, rich kids who have no time for a teacher who doesn’t know how to teach anything but Rock & Roll. Dewey evokes a strong front, poking fun at the powers that be and makes hysterical, out of this world references to the origins of Thanksgiving stating, “that’s the day that George Washington crossed the Delaware and tells the kids that Ozzy Osbourne didn’t learn math.”
One of the highlights of the play was when Dewey explains to the kids that they are learning all wrong, that the don’t need textbooks, charts or tests to learn; history is about learning rock and roll and says, “that is what we will be learning.” (“Stick it to the man”). He gets the kids to focus on learning about rock composers like Zeppelin, Hendrix and Osbourne and has them study to learn how to channel their energy. The kids get angry and vent to Dewey about their parents’ high expectations and how they can’t meet them.
Dewey has many challenges in his role of the substitute teacher: proving that he is fit to teach at the school with parents who consider him to be a jokester and a principal that worries for the welfare of her students. But the greatest challenge Dewey has is raising the self-esteem of students who have given up on themselves due to “not fitting in” and not being able to excel. Glad I brought tissues for the very emotional scene where the kids sang “If only you would listen” sending out a message to their parents and the world that they are real people with real families, and no one is valuing them or their thoughts.
Zack (Melodie Romano), Lawrence, (Jake Singer) and Tomika (Rachelle Beauboeaf) and three major characters in the play; students dealing with issues of shyness, insecurity, and not fitting in. Dewey makes them members of his band (“You’re in the band) to remedy their insecurities. He helps Tomika speak up when she is not part of the band and to assert herself.
In Act 2 of the show, Dewey gets the kids excited about learning Rock & Roll, explaining to them that they will be members of his band. He lets them pick out the name, “School of rock” and tells them that all of their hard work and training will get them to win the competition in the Battle of the Bands. Dewey faces yet another challenge when principal Mullins won’t bend on the rule of “subs cannot do field trips.” In a clever charade to win over the principal, Dewey finds out that Mullins has a weakness for Stevie Nicks. He sets up a plan to woo her on a “date” and they have “adult beverages.” They agree that this was a “secret meeting”, and that Dewey would never talk about how she could be soft and even “fun” (Where did the Rock go?). Dewey plays the hit Stevie song on the juke box, ‘like the one we knew’ and a drunk Mullins sings the verses reliving her younger, freer days and agrees to help Dewey go on the field trip with the kids to perform in Battle of the Bands.
In the denouement of the show, Dewey is exposed as a “fraud” to the faculty and his students. He goes into a funk and his carefree attitude turns sullen and depressed. The set builders (parents of Tap) and musical director Dorothy Romano set the perfect symphony, boosting Dewey’s self-confidence and expressing their gratitude towards him by huddling together and singing “If only you would listen “reprise. The symbiotic relationship amongst Dewey and his students brings everyone on equal footing and shows that “real lessons” were learned here.
The finale brings us to the scene where the parents have finally accepted their kids’ talents and dreams and agree to them going on the field trip to be in the Battle of the Bands”. Although the kids don’t win the “battle” they have won a greater “battle” and they will continue to “rock on.”
If you weren’t lucky enough to catch this funny and heartwarming presentation, find out when Tap Productions is putting on their next show – it was the most inspiring thing I have seen in a long, long time.
Above: Backstage at TAP Productions
To learn more, go to:
Marlo Cohen, Jaycie Cohen and Terry Reed of TAP Productions