STO talks to Stephen Leask who is playing Dewey Finn in School of Rock the Musical in the West End about his dream role and why live theatre is important for learning.
1.) What does it feel like to be cast as the lead?
I still can’t quite believe it! I’ve never been the lead in a West End Musical before and being given the opportunity and responsibility is a real honour.
2.) Dewey is such a fascinating character, tell us about the role, and how you intend on playing him.
Dewey is driven by the belief that his destiny is to become a Rock Star! He has his future all planned out which he describes in the song “When I Climb To The Top of Mount Rock”. He is passionate and driven and the best characters to play always have something they want but don’t yet have. His “never say die” attitude and unwavering self-belief is the heart of the character.
3.) Where do you get the energy from to play Dewey?
I’m not quite sure! I’ve always been a very energetic performer but Dewey Finn is on another level! As soon as the lights go up, the first song starts and the audience start cheering you get an injection of energy. The audience can create a real buzz and you feed off that.
4.) The children you work with are so talented, what’s it like to act and sing alongside them?
The kids are incredible. The first time I ever rehearsed with them I was blown away by how confident and professional they all were. They are all between 9-12, and the way they go out in front of hundreds of people each night and give it their all is utterly inspiring. People sometimes think that I am “in charge” of them or that it’s a bit like being a babysitter but they are my colleagues, we work together and I have a huge amount of respect for them. I couldn’t do the show without them.
5.) The 2003 film was a hit, how do you recreate the same energy and comedy for the stage?
The film has such a great story and Andrew Lloyd-Webber, Julian Fellowes and Glenn Slater have stayed true to that story in creating the music, book and lyrics. Having the audience right there gives you an instant reaction, so you know that they are enjoying what you are doing.
6.) Were you a fan of the film before auditioning for the role?
The film came out when I was 18, my final year at school, and my friends and I absolutely loved it. We played “Teachers Pet” in band practices on weekends and all wanted to be Jack Black!
7.) Do you have a favourite part of the show? Any favourite songs or lines?
My favourite part of the show is the moment the stage revolves, the lights change, Battle of the Bands begins and we start playing “Teachers Pet”. The audience see the kids playing this incredible song and the whole theatre turns into a concert. It makes you feel like a ROCKSTAR!
I love the lines “You guys have a feeling for music, real music…” and “Music speaks to you, that’s what matters.” That is a huge part of the show for me and I think it speaks and, hopefully, inspires the children who come and watch the show to pick up instruments and take an interest in music.
8.) Which of the children’s characters do you think you would have liked to have played when you were younger?
I would love to have played Freddie. He’s a confident kid, who’s not afraid to stand up for himself, I also played drums from the age of 10 and would love to have played in a band like “The School of Rock!”
9.) Why is it so important for children to visit and watch live theatre?
Apart from the obvious benefits of experiencing a great show, going to the theatre is such a healthy escape from the real world. You immerse yourself for a few hours and unplug yourself from technology! It also encourages younger children to develop an appreciation for the arts, which we need now more than ever.
10.) How does it benefit them educationally?
Watching live theatre can inspire you to perform for yourself and the benefits of this are numerous. Drama can improve communication skills, literacy and encourage students to be more creative. Shows like Hamilton can actually teach us about events in history, musicals like Dear Evan Hansen can help people explore more personal feelings. I like to think our show appeals to children who want to start finding their own passions and identity.
11.) What can teachers and pupils expect from School of Rock if they haven’t seen it before?
They can expect to laugh and rock out! They should also expect a few surprises on the way because the kids in the show are insanely talented! I also hope teachers and pupils become inspired. One of my favourite lines in the show is: “You guys have a feeling for music, real music…” Dewey Finn is ambitious and passionate about music. The best outcome would be students leaving the theatre wanting to pick up instruments and learn music. That would be awesome!
School of Rock the Musical continues at the New London Theatre, currently booking to 13 January 2019, www.SchoolOfRockTheMusical.co.uk, phone 0844 811 0052.