PLEASANT GROVE — Many recent Broadway musicals are either of the jukebox variety or based on a movie. As a film and theatre critic I am of course fascinated by the latter and it’s nice when I can check another film to stage translation off of my theater bucketlist. I was able to do so with Creekside’s new production of School of Rock. Part of my curiosity to see this musical for the first time came from the incredible pedigree behind it. It is based on a film of the same name from master filmmaker Richard Linklater but it also has music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Glenn Slater and a book by Julian Fellowes of Downton Abbey fame. The movie was also written by Mike White who would go on to pen such popular shows as The White Lotus.

The Broadway adaptation of School of Rock more or less stays close to the film telling the story of sad sack rock n’ roll musician Dewey Finn. He lies to become a substitute teacher at a snobby preparatory school and decides to make a rock band out of the group of 5th graders he’s supposed to be teaching. In the film Dewey is played by Jack Black and at Creekside Kristian Huff makes the role his own not feeling like he has to make an imitation of Black. It’s an interesting role and performance because rarely in a show for children is a protagonist so unlikable for most of the runtime. He’s ungrateful, dishonest, rude, arrogant and slovenly. At one point he’s accused of ‘not being able to read’ which feels possible because he seems to have no basic idea of what a school is or how it is run. You’d think he’d never had any formal education of any kind and was just about jamming.

Creekside Theatre Fest ; 2024 ; Liahona ; School of Rock ; Pleasant Grove ; Utah County : PG ; Andrew Lloyd Webber

School of Rock plays at Creekside Theatre Fest through July 2.

Despite all these frailties the character of Dewey works because of Huff’s endearing performance and his chemistry with all of the teens. The best song by far is when the teens belt out to their parents “If Only You Would Listen.” We also have a stirring reprise later on where they tell Dewey he was in fact the only one who did listen. This song moved me because I remember what it was like to be a teen feeling like nobody cared what I had to say or offer the world. It’s a great moment of musical theater that I thought about as I was heading home.

Most of the other songs are fun rock meets Broadway and it’s made special by the fact we have the students playing the instruments themselves. Not only that but they are accompanied by a large 7 player band on stage. I always love when local productions have live music and this was no exception.

In addition, all the actors powered through some challenging technical elements and brought a lot to their roles. In particular, Huff is as engaging as possible as Dewey and Tiffany Nutter is a lot of fun as the uptight Stevie Nicks loving principal Rosalie Mullins.

Creekside Theatre Fest ; 2024 ; Liahona ; School of Rock ; Pleasant Grove ; Utah County : PG ; Andrew Lloyd Webber

In the director’s note Jan Shelton Hunsaker says that after a 34 year career she is retiring from teaching theatre with this show. What a perfect way to say goodbye with a show all about teaching and inspiring students. She quotes “If Only You Would Listen” in her notes and says “Everything I’ve learned in the past 34 years I learned from a teenager. Try it.” What a fantastic message to take away from a night of musical theater.

The production of School of Rock at Creekside was on the simple side with most of the sets by Brian Hadfield being panels that could be flipped around to the school room and Ned Schneebly’s living room. A break room and Dewey’s bedroom are off to the side and there is a bar and Battle of the Bands stage but it’s all kept pretty straightforward. The costumes by Jen Christensen are also uncomplicated mostly being school uniforms for the teens and everyday clothing for the parents. She did, however, have fun when Ned (played by Ethan Porter) gets his rocker look on at the end as well as the hard core apparel of the No Vacancy band throughout.

Creekside Theatre Fest ; 2024 ; Liahona ; School of Rock ; Pleasant Grove ; Utah County : PG ; Andrew Lloyd Webber

While I do love live music in community theater it can have its downsides and unfortunately there were nearly constant microphone problems and pinging throughout the show. I am sure the more they perform the better that will get but I suspect it’s just a reality when you have so many live musicians and singers all with microphones. Keeping the sound mix balanced is going to be next to impossible.

Audiences are coming to School of Rock at Creekside for the community; to see a bunch of teens dancing and singing to a show that hopefully reminds us all to take a second and listen to what they have to say. Creekside’s production gives us that in spades and hopefully we can all “Stick it to the Man” by going to see it at the Liahona Theater in Pleasant Grove while it is running there. It’s a rockin good time!

 SCHOOL OF ROCK plays as part of Creekside Theatre Fest through July 2 at Liahona Preparatory Academy on the The Cook Center for Human Connection Stage at Liahona Prepatory Academy (2464 West 450 South, Pleasant Grove)  Tickets are $15-20. For more information, visit