- Chief Los Angeles Theatre Critic
Walking into the Pantages Theatre at 10:45 a.m. was a thrill. Usually the theatre is closed to the public at this time of the day, however, the lobby lights were aglow on School of Rock posters, and chairs were set for a select group of media to meet the cast of School of Rock.
The two leads Rob Colletti (Dewey) and Lexi Dorsett Sharp (Rosalie) walked into the lobby with sixteen of their castmates all under 12 years old. This talented bunch was dressed informally and in School of Rock apparel. The kids performed “If Only You Would Listen” before the interviews.
Here’s what I learned about this righteous cast performing School of Rock in Hollywood:
First I talked to Rob Colletti - a Columbia College graduate and The Second City trained actor who starred in The Book of Mormon on Broadway.
JW: Rob you remind me a lot of Jack Black from the movie School of Rock when I see you onstage. Your comic timing is spot-on. At times I feel it’s him up onstage.
RC: Well, thank you. Jack Black had an enormous influence on me while working on the character. I grew up watching the movie School of Rock and am a big fan. Our director (Laurence Connor) gave us freedom to create our characters, yet I wanted to pay homage to Mr. Black. He laid down the groundwork from the very beginning. I owe my comic timing to him and try to bring his energy level to the stage at every performance.
The beautiful Lexie Dorsett Sharp joined us.
JW: Your exquisite smooth and sweet sounding voice is like honey. How old were you when you started singing?
LDS: I first picked up a violin when I was in Kindergarten. I played it for 10 years. I also started taking voice lessons when I was 7 years old and was encouraged to study Opera and Italian arias. They are the vegetables for the voice. I’ve been studying with Amy Murphy in Birmingham, Alabama for a long time. That is where I am from, and there is no one better coach at helping a singer keep her voice super healthy. If your voice is well, then you can act. Your voice is your best instrument.
Next, I talked with the kids in the cast. First I met with Huxley Westemeier who plays Billy and understudies Lawrence in School of Rock.
JW: What was the audition process like for you Huxley?
HW: I first auditioned for School of Rock on Broadway, but didn’t get the role. However, I did get a call back later for the touring show. I play the piano and keyboard. My mom was in a rock band called Whoops Kitty.
Actors and musicians Jack Suarez Kimmel and Jesse Sparks joined us. They educated me about being a Swing in the show.
JW: Jack how did you get your start as a guitar shredder?
JSK: I’ve been acting and playing the guitar since he was 8 years old. This is my first real big-time show. A 17-year-old friend told me to audition. I did and got it. I had to learn how to play four different parts - Zack, Freddy, Mason and Billy. I’m at the theatre every night and I’m on call throughout the show just in case someone can’t go on.
JW: What about you Jesse?
JS: I’m a New York rocker studying at the Manhattan School of Music learning classical music and I’m in a rock band. I auditioned for School of Rock on Broadway but didn’t get it. When I auditioned for the touring company, I was cast. We always have to be prepared. Mid-show or at intermission one of the cast members could feel sick, so Swings step in. I play Zach, Mason and Billy) It can get confusing, yet is super fun. There is also a slim chance that a boy can go on as a girl. I have a special place in my heart for the movie School of Rock and now it’s so cool to be in the musical. I have learned so much more about the story.
JW: Since most kids your age are at school, how do you fit in your studies and perform at 8 p.m.? Also, what do you do when you have downtime or on Mondays when the theatre is dark?
JS: Some of us are homeschooled. Most of the kids in this cast work an online curriculum for 15 hours a week. We also have three tutors who travel with us 16 kids. Jack visited the Santa Monica Pier to ride the rides. Some of the others were there too. My dog Shotze is traveling with me and got sick, so I had to be at the vet and couldn’t go. I like to go to guitar stores.
Next, I interviewed the adorable Iara Nemirovsky (Summer) and Grier Burke (Tomika).
JW: Iara in the show you are “by the book” a rule follower and overachiever. Are you like this in real life?
IN: I’m not as strict, however I am organized and I do get all the boys to listen to me.
JW: Grier are you like your shy and quiet character in real life?
IN: Grier is acting, she is not shy at all.
GB: This isn’t my first show as some of the others in the cast. I was in the national tour of Disney’s Lion King. I’m from Chicago and have done at least four other shows. What is so cool about this show is we get to hang out. We have all become friends. We also got to meet Andrew Lloyd Webber (Grier says “Hello” is a perfect British accent). It was so cool that he came to our Opening Night show and the party afterward. He was very nice.
JW: Are you excited to be in the Touring Cast? What cities will you be performing School of Rock?
GB and IN: We are going to Denver right after this show (Closes on May 27). We will be performing in others cities in California - San Diego, San Francisco, Costa Mesa and San Jose.
Go see this delightful and wise beyond their years cast for a School of Rockin’ fun time.