Breckenridge Backstage Theatre’s ‘School of Rock’ opens Friday
For anyone considering whether to buy tickets for “School of Rock-The Musical,” Brandon Warren, who landed the lead role of the curly haired, loveable loser Dewey Finn, puts it like this.
“Have you ever been to a concert? Was it awesome?” he asked rhetorically during a break in action at last Sunday’s rehearsal. “Have you ever been to a concert played by elementary school kids? Even more awesome.”
In its 43rd season, Breckenridge Backstage Theatre is doing its first all-youth main-stage production, and the show opens Friday. The cast includes more than two dozen children, many of whom come from Summit County.
The local musical is based on the smash movie written by Mike White, and the storyline is somewhat simple: Down on his luck, Dewey Finn lies his way into a substitute teaching job. Knowing little about the core subjects, he casts aside the traditional textbooks in favor of creating his own rock-based curriculum, complete with face-melting guitar riffs, electric keyboard solos and jam sessions.
“He’s very childish, often immature and very energetic,” Warren said of his character. “His students are more knowledgeable, or down-to-earth, I guess than he is… but he is very kind and great with kids, ironically, though he doesn’t start out that way.”
Even though the play features an all-youth cast, “School of Rock” is a well-done, laugh-out-loud wild ride through the rock ‘n’ roll world, with a strong message and a fair amount of “sticking it to the man.” It all works out, however, as Dewey’s rebellious antics inspire and empower this group of over-scheduled prep students to find their passion.
At 18 years old, Warren towers over many of the younger cast members, like 11-year-old Ceaira Seiber, who plays the shy but immensely talented Tomika Williams, and Jaye Mueller, a 11-year-old Summit County girl who likes Led Zeppelen “a lot” and landed the part of guitarist Zara Mooneyham — Zach in the movie — after the role was rewritten for a female actor.
For Mueller, there was a family connection that led her into this part that makes good use of her musical skills.
“Well, my dad he inspired me to start playing because he played (the guitar),” she said of how she got started, adding that she “loves” rock ‘n’ roll and thinks it’s “awesome” that she got the part.
Adding to the allure of this show, Breckenridge Backstage artistic director Chris Willard explained that it can take years before a new Broadway musical to get licensed for all of the country. However, Lloyd Webber apparently felt a special connection to this specific story, so much so it led him and R&H Theatricals to make the “School of Rock” available to schools and youth theaters during its run in New York City, a rarity in the theater world.
What the audience will see on stage is real.
When Brody Lineaweaver said he had to learn to play the drums to land his role, he’s telling the truth, and many of the other cast members also had to be able to literally play their parts.
“The thing that’s so special about this show — you don’t seen anywhere else — is that the kids are playing their instruments,” Warren said. “You walk in and you’re expecting to see a bunch of kids poorly miming instruments, but no, it’s written for the children to play their instruments as well. It’s been great — and horrible — to walk in and find so many kids who are better their instruments than I am. It’s something I’ve never seen in a show before, which is very, very exciting.”
The play opens Friday and runs through April 8. Tickets range from $15 to $25, with special pricing for opening night. The show is rated PG with a few mild curse words. For more info, go to BackstageTheatre.org.
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