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28Jan

School of Rock - Hayfield Secondary School - Alexandria, Virginia - December 2, 2016

Emily Lachow

McLean High School

Within the clean lines and structure of preparatory school Horace Green, there is a classroom that embraces chaos. Here, the ABC’s are AC/DC, any child can be a rock star, and the heartbeat of rock ‘n roll beats within everyone. Hayfield Secondary School captured the head-banging, fist-pumping rhythm of School of Rock with boundless energy and heartwarming performances.

 

School of Rock first “stuck it to the man” in 2003, with a movie starring the famous comedic actor Jack Black. The film follows the journey of Dewey Finn, a fraudulent substitute teacher, who discovers the raw musical talent of his class and teaches them the basics of rock ‘n roll. This inspiring flick struck a chord with its audiences; the lasting legacy of the film spurred a Tony nominated stage adaptation in 2014.

 

Leading the band was the ever-effervescent Dewey Finn, embodied skillfully by Jackson Miller. His gravelly voice perfectly complemented the rock music of the show, and his consistently comedic presence elicited guffaws of laughter from the audience. Nicely contrasting Dewey’s slapdash enthusiasm was the elegant Rosalie Mullins (Shannon Flack). Not only did Flack deftly encompass Ms. Mullins’ uptight demeanor at the beginning, she was also strikingly graceful in her most tender moments. Her luscious soprano was impressive in its range and expressiveness. Miller and Flack together captured the heartbeat of rock music and proved to be a highlight of the night.

 

And what school would be complete without its children? Managing the fourth-graders was the powerful Summer, portrayed by Cara Bradley. Despite occasional technical difficulties, Bradley powered through with a consistently commanding stage presence, and managed to capture both the ambition and the innocence of her character. Another standout was, of course, Tomika (Trish Hoang); despite her lack of lines in Act 1, in the second half of the show her captivating soulful voice was a high point of the evening. As Rosalie’s younger self, Avalon Engelhardt was able to encompass her emotional range with exquisitely graceful dancing. Jeff Sanderson (Brynn Spradlin) breathed life into the production whenever he appeared onstage. Together, the ensemble was cohesive and, most notably, played their instruments live.

 

The technical aspects of the show enhanced its rock ‘n roll vibe. The costumes accurately suited each actor; the school uniforms were embellished to reflect the personalities of the students. The lighting was colorful and vibrant; it set the mood of each scene and immersed its audience in a rock-concert-like atmosphere. The pit orchestra was seamless throughout the entire production, with an impressive student conductor and an exceptional adherence to the action onstage.

 

Hayfield’s School of Rock produced an infectiously foot-tapping night. The students fully captured the spirit of rock with the same captivating enthusiasm that struck a chord with audiences over ten years ago.


Lydia Gompper

George Mason High School

Be prepared to dance in your seat, because Hayfield Secondary School is cranking up the volume in their lively, fiercely fun production of “School of Rock.”

 

Based on the popular 2003 movie of the same name, “School of Rock” made its Broadway debut in 2015, featuring music by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. The show follows slacker-with-a-dream Dewey Finn, who, after being given the boot by his “hot” rock band “No Vacancy,” impersonates his best friend Ned as a substitute teacher at a classy private school. Arriving at Horace Green Prep, he discovers a class full of young, sweet-faced, musical whiz-kids, and immediately begins to prepare them to compete in the upcoming Battle of the Bands.

 

Hayfield Secondary School’s production succeeded in crossing the bridge between wildly animated and adorably heartwarming. The cast was thoroughly committed, giving every ounce of energy they had to the countless dynamic musical numbers. The “children” of the show, played by a mixture of high school and middle school students, were particularly enchanting, whether they were jumping and belting in the rambunctious “Stick it to the Man,” or expressing their somber yearning for parental understanding in “If Only You Would Listen.” Each member of the ensemble was full engaged and individually entertaining, while the members of Dewey’s band, the School of Rock, greatly impressed the audience with their live instrumentals and endearing characters. 

 

The clear spine of the show, however, was Dewey himself, played excellently by Jackson Miller. Miller immediately captivated the audience with his total dedication to his weighty role. He was a superb comedic presence onstage, perfectly executing both dry one-liners and moments of outlandish physical ridiculousness. His vocals were ideal for such a show, with a powerful belt and pleasing roughness. Miller also impressed with his strong chemistry not only with his character’s students, but also with his romantic interest, Horace Green’s principal Rosalie Mullins, portrayed by Shannon Flack. The duo created a wonderfully charming onstage tension. Flack herself, meanwhile, gave a fantastic performance as the high-strung Rosalie. Her awkwardly poised physicality was hilarious, and her moments of emotional vulnerability and reflection were beautiful.

 

Several other onstage performers also made lasting impressions. Trish Hoang showed off spectacularly powerful, soulful vocals as Tomika, a shy new student who gradually comes out of her shell throughout the show. Her rendition of “Amazing Grace” had the audience screaming. Also notable was Cara Bradley as Summer, the high-achieving, type-A band manager of the School of Rock. Despite facing some sound issues during her solo number, “Time to Play,” she maintained her unflappable professionalism, delivering a lively and assertive performance.

 

The great appeal of this production was not, of course, limited to the phenomenal actors and actresses. Set designer Claire Hackney found remarkable success through her use of delightfully specific detailing, particularly in Dewey’s poster-covered apartment and in the dive bar Dewey and Rosalie visited for their first date. Meanwhile, Hayfield’s pit band, directed by junior Corey Hobbs, was polished and versatile, executing a wide variety of musical genres throughout the show’s two acts. Situated beneath the stage, the band members would occasionally reach up to interact with the actors – a funny and clever touch.

 

Hayfield Secondary School’s production of “School of Rock” was the ideal mixture of a poignant musical and a wild rock concert. Giving impressive performances across the board, the students constantly engaged their audience with their intense passion and vitality. Their final standing ovation was thoroughly deserved.

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