FRAMINGHAM – Walsh Middle School Theatre Arts Director Sheron Doucette saw Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock on Broadway in 2016.
When she decided to bring it to the Framingham middle school’s stage she had one caveat “we do so with students playing the instruments live on stage,” said Doucette.
So when it came time for tryouts, students had the traditional acting, singling, & dancing but some students had a musical audition also.
Students submitted a “recording of them playing one of the songs from the show. We sent them a snippet they had to learn that and them they send it to us,” said Doucette.
Except when the students are in orchestra class in the show with the cello and the violin, etc, they are all playing on their own, said Doucette.
Based on the movie of the same title, starring Jack Black, the musical theatre show features the music of Webber, the lyrics of Glenn Slater, with a book by Julian Fellowes.
“This is a show about discovering that you have something inside you that you didn’t know you had. It is about being reminded of who you once were and that the part of you thought to be long gone is still there. It is about finding your voice and feeling empowered to use it no matter how old you are. These are life lessons we hope our children learn and adults remember,” wrote Doucette in the program book.
Doucette said she picked the show “because she has “seen a lot of our kids trying to stand up and use their voices in our community, in our school. And this show is about discovering that you have a voice even if you’re at a young age. So we really wanted to make sure that they not only knew that they could do that, but also teach them the right way to do that. We had a Rep. Jack Lewis come in and talk to the whole cast about that. We shouldn’t be using Dewey Finn as our moral compass, she said laughing.
“Now that they realize they do have this voice and they are not too young to use it, these are the steps that you should do and make sure that you’re finding the appropriate way to share your thoughts, a grievance if you have it, your hopes and make it happen,” said Doucette.
There are more than 100 students involved on stage and behind the scenes.
The show has two casts, an evening cast and what was the “understudy” cast, now called the afternoon cast.
“We initially had started this and we said that because of COVID, we were going to have understudies. We usually don’t have understudies, and we have learned in the past two years that that’s important. So we had our cast and we had our understudies, but the understudies were doing so much work because they had to learn the same musical parts. They had to learn all this that we decided that wasn’t okay, and they needed to show their stuff because they’re pretty awesome. So that’s why we decided that the understudies would have their own show and that they would do that. And they’re no longer understudies. Now we have an evening cast and an afternoon cast,” said Doucette, who is director and producer of the musical.
SOURCE photographed the full dress rehearsal for the afternoon cast yesterday, December 7. That cast will perform on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m.
The evening cast will perform Friday and Saturday night at 7 p.m.
Tickets are available at www.showtix4U.com
There is also a free dress rehearsal tonight, December 8, at 7 at the school.
In the afternoon cast, Dewey Finn is played by Walsh student Shawn Nichols and Rosalie Mullins is portrayed by Samantha Tsekrekas.
In the evening cast, Doucette cast a female in the lead role of Dewey.
Layla Daigneault plays the out-of-work Finn, who becomes a substitute teacher at a private school.
Doucette said she cast Layla as she is a “phenomenal guitar player.”
“She was in our shows last year as a sixth grader, and she was always on. We were just impressed with what she was able to do last year. But even more than that, her guitar audition was amazing and her singing was amazing. She came into this knowing every single song because she loves School of Rock. She loves the character. And so when she came in, we’re like, okay, there you go. She’s great,” said Doucette.
To get even more students on stage and in front of an audience, Doucette adapted the show from the Broadway musical version.
“In the movie version, it’s a very, very small classroom. First, we wanted to make it a little bit more realistic. Having a classroom of 10 is not something that you would most likely see. But also because we wanted to make sure that we could give all the students that are as talented as they are, an opportunity to shine,” said Doucette.
“We expanded the classroom, we added students, we added the whole chorus which is not in the movie,” said Doucette. “We wanted to make sure that we could include everybody. We don’t cut any students. We never want a student to try theater for the first time and then not get in. So everybody has a part. So we have over 80 kids on stage and then another, 20-30 off stage.”
Musical director for School of Rock at Walsh Middle is Jamie Fontaine.
Alexia Vieira is the choreographer.
Technical director and set design is Peter Doucette.
Erin Morrill is the conductor and instrumental coach.