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Seizing hold of early signs that Andrew Lloyd Webber has birthed what looks likely to be his most commercial new property in years, the musical-theater impresario on Monday announced that School of Rock will open at the London Palladium in fall 2016, as well as launching a U.S. tour in autumn of the following year.
The expansion plans follow Sunday night’s Broadway opening for the musical adaptation of the beloved 2003 Richard Linklater screen comedy that starred Jack Black, which in its stage incarnation has garnered some of the best reviews for a new Lloyd Webber show in years.
Adapted by book writer Julian Fellowes from Mike White’s screenplay for the Paramount movie, the show includes numbers from the film in a score of mostly new songs, composed by Lloyd Webber with lyrics by Glenn Slater. The musical has been a solid box-office performer in previews at the Winter Garden Theatre, where Lloyd Webber’s juggernaut Cats played for 18 years, grossing $366 million.
It seems a long shot for the new show to match the commercial fortunes of either Cats or The Phantom of the Opera, which has been running since 1988 at Broadway’s Majestic Theatre, where it recently passed the $1 billion mark. But School of Rock nonetheless capitalizes on the popularity of the source movie and has shown sufficient early drawing power to justify plans for a larger rollout.
“We have had such a great time in the U.S. staging the world premiere, and now that we have opened on Broadway, I am delighted to be focusing on the next chapter in the show’s journey,” said Lloyd Webber. “This is an exciting reversal for me, as I’m used to premiering shows in London before they make their way to New York. I am also delighted that audiences across America will be able to see our show so soon.”
In addition to the U.S. tour, for which a launch city and itinerary are to be set at a later date, Lloyd Webber announced that School of Rock will be made available for amateur productions to be performed in schools. The first of those will be the Oakland School of the Arts in March, with 150 schools so far scheduled to follow.
On Broadway, School of Rock stars Alex Brightman in the role of renegade failed rocker Dewey Finn, who, in need of cash to pay rent, fakes his credentials to take a substitute teaching job at a prestigious school. He makes over his class of fifth-grade classical music geeks as junior rockers, entering them in the Battle of the Bands. The cast features 13 talented kids ranging in age from nine through 13, including four young musicians who play their own instruments.
Guests from the rock world on opening night at the Winter Garden included Stevie Nicks (whose song “Edge of Seventeen” is featured in the show), Mick Fleetwood and Sting; as well as Graydon Carter, Harvey Weinstein, David Geffen and the actors who played the original kids in the movie.
The show is produced on Broadway by Lloyd Webber for the Really Useful Group, Warner Music Group & Access Industries, the Shubert Organization and the Nederlander Organization. Executive producers are Nina Lannan and Madeleine Lloyd Webber.
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