School of Rock the Musical: With ‘face melting’ guitar solos, high energy antics and a larger than life performance by its leading man, School of Rock the Musical, is bound to leave the audience with a real buzz, when it comes to Leicester’s Curve theatre later this year.
Midlands actor Jake Sharp has been taking on the lead role of wannabe rocker Dewey Finn for the past four years – a role which was made famous on film in 2003 by eccentric comedian Jack Black.
However, bringing the iconic film to the stage, has brought a whole new dimension to the ‘School of Rock’ story, he says, one which has been embraced by legendary musical heavyweight Andrew Lloyd Webber.
“He’s a major, major fan of the film, and creating the musical has been a real passion project for him,” Jake told Pukaar.
“He’s very passionate about making sure that there’s music in schools, and that children have an opportunity to be able to learn instruments no matter what their background. So he’s very vocal about making sure that people come to watch the show and bring their kids along, just because of what it can do, and its potential to inspire a whole generation.”
As well as the original rock songs featured in the film, Lloyd Webber has written a whole new rock score for the musical, which is currently on tour around the UK.
According to Mr Sharp, bringing ‘School of Rock’ to the stage has allowed it to have “more heart” and more depth than we have seen previously, with more time to explore the backstories of various characters.
For those who aren’t familiar with the movie, the plot sees disheveled musician Dewey, cast out by his dive-bar band mates and in desperate need of cash.
However, circumstances lead to him posing as a substitute music teacher, where he exposes his students to the rock gods he idolises, transforming them into a mind-blowing rock band by the end of the film.
“What we’re kind of blessed with within the show, is that it’s longer than the film, so especially with the young actors, you get to see a lot more of their backstory and their lives outside of school,” explained Mr Sharp.
“With Dewey, we also get to show what a good guy he is and how all of his so called ‘negative points’, are all just passion deep down, which is really beautiful. It’s something which I think should be celebrated in people, if they have something which they love, like Dewey does with music”.
The actor, who has a passion for music himself and a background in playing rock music, says that the ‘larger than life’ role of Dewey Finn is one which was seemingly ‘made for him.’ However, he admits that Jack Black’s shoes are some very big ones to fill.
“If I can even be compared to him, I’m over the moon because I think he’s unbelievable,” he said.
“I love him to bits, and the Dewey character is a role which I’m very attached to.
“He’s a kind of amped up, more childish version of me, and not somebody that I have to try particularly hard to understand”, he laughed.
“Even in terms of the look, people are like ‘did you put weight on for the show?’ and I’m like; ‘no I didn’t, this is just what I look like!”
Speaking of his high energy performance, Mr Sharp says that the audience, together with the enthusiasm of his pint sized co-stars, who are all between the ages of 10 and 13, are the things which keep him going on stage, during the show’s two-and-a-half hour running time.
“It makes a world of difference when you get the audience there, if you get a particularly noisy or quite a raucous crowd, it gives you that extra boost,” he said.
“Vocally the show is incredibly high, and physically it’s very demanding. Running and jumping off desks and doing a knee slide has more of an impact when you’ve got some weight on you rather than if you’re very thin and athletic.
“But the energy of the kids on stage is so infectious, and when you’re onstage feeling yourself beginning to flag, you only have to look around and see that they’re jumping higher than you are, and that really eggs you on,” he revealed.
“It works way better than a Lucozade does!
“These kids are so unbelievably talented to the point where you think ‘this can’t be real’” he added.
“It’s just an incredible thing to be a part of – a real love letter to live music, which doesn’t just appeal to the typical musical audience. It’s an opportunity to have a laugh, be inspired and just see some great live music.”
Catch the School of Rock musical at Curve between May 30-June 4.
By Louise Steel