The hit musical “School of Rock” will be performed in Korea in its original language for the first time in June, as part of the first leg of the show’s international tour.
Based on the 2003 comedy music film of the same name starring Jack Black, the musical features the original score from Andrew Lloyd Webber and follows out-of-work musician Dewey Finn on his quest to turn students of a prestigious school into rock musicians. It was first performed in 2015, with its original West End production winning the Outstanding Achievement in Music award at the Laurence Olivier Awards.
“Everyone has an inner slob within themselves. To play this role (of Dewey Finn), I had to sort of tap into that,” said Conner John Gillooly, on playing the lead role. The actor, comedian and writer stressed that as the “first skinny Dewey” he would focus on creating his own unique character instead of re-enacting the popular version Jack Black created on the big screen.
Conner John Gillooly as Dewey Finn (S&Co)
“Nobody does Jack Black the way Jack Black does. I had to find my own ‘rocket sauce,’” he said, quoting Black. “I was honored when they (the producers) discussed the part with me and wanted to put my fingerprints on it, just as Jack Black did.”
Patrick O’Neill, associate choreographer and director of the show, said that while the structure of the play remains intact, something will be added along the way of each performance during the world tour to make the show special.
“What we wanted to do was to create a story where young actors, parents and Dewey’s journey has equal importance, so you could leave the theater feeling everyone has been made a better human being,” he said.
Among notable changes in the musical would be a side story involving the romance between the protagonist and school principal Rosalie Mullins, which was only hinted at in the film. O’Neill said the love song would be about the love of music, and ultimately wanting to find real love.
Patrick O’Neill speaks during a joint press interview in Seoul on Monday. (S&Co)
One of the most memorable features of the film were the outstanding real musical performances of the cast, which are also to be on display in the musical. The director hyped up anticipation of the performance.
“What’s so thrilling is that young actors we find that are brilliant instrumentalists, they don’t understand that it is difficult yet. It’s like watching a volcano of talent and energy explode every night,” he said.
The energy of the young cast can fuel energy even into the leading man.
“The fact is, when you’re on stage with these incredible musicians, you can’t help but be pumped up every time. While in every show there’s a moment that I feel I’m gonna die, it’s overcome with sheer joy,” Gillooly said.
But Dewey’s unorthodox style and energy is also what stands out from the “School of Rock,” which is something the lead man can be expected to bring. As a lifelong rock fan, Gillooly said he learned from his hero Freddy Mercury of Queen that being the front man of the band is “more than being a vocalist, you’re being an entertainer.”
The actor said he has been allowed freedom to add bits and parts from outside the script to reflect his own interpretation to the character, particularly in the famous “Legend of the Rent” scene where Dewey improvises a song to his class.
“One of my favorite things to do is to pretend that I’m possessed by the rock devil,” he said, an odd reference considering one of the most popular songs of Jack Black’s Tenacious D “Tribute” features a rock-off between the band and the devil.
About the upcoming show, the actor said it is for everyone.
“We’ll tug your heartstrings until you cry, we’ll make you laugh until you cry, we’ll make you cry because you’re rocking so hard. The best piece of advice is that you’re not going out for an evening in the theater, you’re going to a rock show, so enjoy,” he said.
“It’s a show about tradition, expectation, and about stress and pressure. And how music can rescue us from all of that,” O’Neill said.
“School of Rock the Musical” will be performed at the Charlotte Theater in Seoul from June 8 to Aug. 25, and will move to Busan to be played at the Dream Theater and at Keimyung Art Center in Daegu in September.
Tickets will open at 2 p.m. on April 16 at local online booking websites and the homepage of Charlotte Theater. Tickets range from 60,000 won to 160,000 won.
The show is 160 minutes long with an intermission, and is available to those aged 8 or older.
For more information about the show, visit the official homepage www.musicalschoolofrock.co.kr.
By Yoon Min-sik