When you enter the Little Theatre of Virginia Beach for they production of Schoolhouse Rock! Live!, you’re immediately transported to an arcade in the 1980s. Vibrant colors and LED lights projecting on the back walls along with red and white colored rope lights on the walls surrounding the stage establish the environment of what is sure to be a fun and exciting time. This is something that Schoolhouse Rock! Live! mostly delivers on.
Schoolhouse Rock! Live! has a book by Scott Ferguson, George Keating and Kyle Hall with Music and Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, Bob Dorough, Dave Frishberg, Kathy Mandry, George Newall and Tom Yohe. The musical is based on the popular Emmy Award-winning educational TV series created by David McCall that originally premiered in 1973 and ran through 1985 in its original incarnation.
Most of the lessons taught on Schoolhouse Rock! were based on history, math, grammar and science. The musical uses this same formula when creating the story around the main character, Tom, portrayed in this production by Andrew Lauto. Tom is very nervous about his first day teaching, to relax his nerves he turns on his television and finds some cartoons that he did not realize were still being aired. Tom falls asleep and dreams about the characters and lessons from the popular cartoons to help him gain confidence in his skills as a teacher and the lessons he will teach his future students.
Anyone who has ever watched or heard of Schoolhouse Rock! will recognize songs like “Just a Bill” and “Conjunction Junction.” This show is family-friendly and seems to be especially geared toward children which may take away some of the enjoyment for some of the adult audience members.
The production uses an ensemble cast of 18 children and adults to bring this show to life on stage. Auto’s character, Tom, is the only verbally named character in the show. Lauto brings him to life on stage with an energy of someone who loves to perform. His interpretation gives the character eagerness and naivety that one can only imagine every new teacher might feel on their first day of school. Lauto helps to drive the non-musical portion of the show and keep everyone on track.
The entire ensemble helps to bring the story to life on stage, but two performances stand out: Nick Richardson’s and Kai White’s. Mr. Richardson’s energy level is one every performer should strive for. He committed to every character and performance and was a joy to watch. Ms. White is a true gem as a singer and performer. Her stunning vocals on such numbers as “Sufferin’ Till Suffrage” and “Interplanet Janet” were among the strongest of the evening.
Under the direction of Garry Mancuso with music direction by Evan Lambert and choreography by Karen Bucheim, the production is good fun for the whole family. Staging was adequate but have benefitted from more of the stunning set pieces designed by Jeff Seneca. In the musical direction department, Evan Lambert did a good job making sure all the performers knew their parts and blended well on stage. Unfortunately several times the orchestration overwhelmed some of the the solo parts. The accompnaiment is broadcast through a PA system, putting the singers at a disadvantage.
The production levels were professional and top notch. The set designed by Jeff Seneca was a beautiful vision of fun and playfulness and gave the actors a wonderful playground. The bright and colorful costumes designed by Kathy Hinson added another strong visual level to the show, and the performers look like they came from a crayon box. Along with the set and costumes, the props designed by Jamie Wuori were expertly crafted and became another character.
Overall, Schoolhouse Rock! Live! is a fun show for the whole family and it is something that the kids might just enjoy as much as, if not more, than the parents.
Want to Go?
Schoolhouse Rock! Live! runs through August 7.
Showtimes: 8:00PM on Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 PM on Sundays.
TicketS: $20 for Adults, $18 for Full-Time Students, Active Duty Military, Seniors (60+) and Sunday matinee and $10 for Children (under 12).
You can purchase tickets online at www.ltvb.com or by calling the Little Theatre of Virginia Beach Box Office at 757-428-9233.