The SAC Dramatic Society brings Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock to Wirth Theatre November 13-16.
This is an upbeat, feel-good musical in which overachieving private school students are taught how to unleash their inner rock star. It features Grade 12 students, Caleb Veisman and Blake Phillips, and Grade 11 students, Caden McHenry, Nolan Rush, Conner Watts, Ty White, and Mason Watson, and dozens of young performers, led by Grade 5 student, Terrence Deng, making their mainstage debut.
Directed by St. Andrew’s Head of Drama, William Scoular, the creative team features choreography by Stephanie Wilson, musical direction by Ryan Johnston, and costume design by Pat Wilson. The show’s set and lights are designed by Stratford Festival veterans, Doug Paraschuk and Michael Walton.
You probably know the story: Dewey Finn, an impoverished, paunchy rocker dropped by his band for slovenly showboating, impersonates his roommate to get a substitute teaching job at a stuffy private school. He has no teaching experience and doesn’t impress the worldly-wise kids one bit.
The situation looks hopeless until he hears them playing stiff, serious classical music. So, he secretly transforms the kids into a rock band, aiming for a $20,000 contest prize.
They don’t win, but Dewey redeems himself, transforms the kids’ regimented lives and brings them closer to dysfunctional but loving parents – all with the power of rock ’n’ roll.
Part of the journey of the musical is seeing the transformation of the children from tentative musicians, who feel they don’t have a voice among adults, to bona fide rock stars, who make their parents see them in a new light and listen to what they have to say.
The theme of the musical is summed up in a moving anthem for youth empowerment, If Only You Would Listen, which is sung by the young characters who feel adults don’t take their concerns seriously.
Mr. Scoular is committed to the positive message that he wants the audience, especially the young, to take away from the smash-hit Broadway musical. “I feel incredibly proud of these young actors. For most of them, it’s the first time they’ve ever set foot on a stage, let alone in Wirth Theatre. At the start of rehearsals, they were a bit nervous, and now when they perform as actors, singers, dancers, and musicians they’re nailing it. It’s incredible to see them grow visibly in such a short space of time.”
The four main young characters are a classic rock combo – guitar, keys, bass, and drums, and range in age from 10 to 13. The casting challenge, Mr. Scoular says, “is what makes the show unique. It’s not just that they have to act, sing, and dance. They also need to be incredible musicians. Everyone keeps asking me if the kids really play their instruments, and I can assure you they do.”
School of Rock is not strictly a Broadway musical; it’s two musicals in one, says Mr. Scoular. “A lot of the show is a rock musical and the rest is quite a conventional theatrical musical,” he explains, noting that the last 20 minutes are full-on encore-level hard rock.
“The audience will be on their feet by the end of the show, and that’s going to be such an amazing feeling for these multi-talented young performers.”