By Ben Rodgers
ASHWAUBENON – Ashwaubenon High School is breaking the mold when it comes to musicals with its latest production.
The school is one of the first in the area to put on “School of Rock – The Musical ”
The show has music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and is based on the 2003 movie with the same name that stars Jack Black.
“This is a musical about empowering kids through rock music and the main reason he (Webber) wanted to allow high school students to do this, even though it’s still on Broadway and it’s touring, is that it’s empowering to kids and using the musical genre to do it,” said Bernie Rocheleau, co-director of the show. “It’s empowering for all high school students.”
The story follows Dewey Finn, an out-of-luck, out-of-money, wannabe rock star.
Finn gets the opportunity for a gig as a substitute teacher, except it’s meant for his roommate, Ned Schneebly.
Once at Horace Green Prep School Finn, posing as Schneebly, discovers the students are musically talented, and he starts a scheme to use the students in the Battle of the Bands to win money for himself to pay back rent.
And although “Rock” is literally in the name, Rocheleau said that shouldn’t deter people who enjoy musical theater from checking out the show.
“It boils down to its Andrew Lloyd Webber, so the music is going to be great,” he said. “A lot of the music was in the movie so it is the rock genre but there are a lot of things that are pure Webber.”
Moreover, the work to create the music is done not only in the pit, but on the stage as well.
“The most difficult part of this is you’re dealing with essentially two bands,” Rocheleau said. “The pit band, which isn’t a traditional pit band, has guitars and a keyboard, but we also have the onstage band. Technically we have to blend the two, plus the kids playing onstage may not know how to play an instrument.”
That’s the case with the lead Logan Zills, a senior who plays Finn.
Zills has been in musicals since middle school, but is a piano player, not a guitar player.
“I’m not too guitar savvy, guitar is not my speciality,” Zills said. “But in a way it’s easier because it is a modern day character and I find myself so much like Jack Black as it is, portraying him isn’t that hard.”
With a more modern show, comes more modern themes, which is something everyone, especially students can relate to, said Helen Marcks, co-director.
“The musical takes on a lot of current social issues that our high school kids deal with on a daily basis and what you’ll find through this musical is that Dewey Finn, the Jack Black character is the deadbeat rockstar character at the beginning but he turns out to be such a help to the kids that are struggling with these issues, that he goes through a transformation at the end,” Marcks said.
Another new aspect to this show will be the sets. With the show at the Ashwaubenon Performing Arts Center there is now enough room to work on the sets at the same time as rehearsals, which has led to more student involvement.
The show is also an effort that goes beyond the two directors and students.
Ali Carlson is the choreographer, George Reynolds designed the sets, Kari Devine, directs the pit and Brandon Rockstroh is the choral director.
Work on “School of Rock” started at the beginning of the school year.
“It is quite an undertaking,” Marcks said. “Some of the people on our directing team aren’t teachers here so it does take a lot of coordination to put it all together.”
“School of Rock – The Musical” is at 7 p.m., on Nov. 17, 18 and 25 and at 1 p.m., on Nov. 26 at the Ashwaubenon Performing Arts Center.
Tickets are $10 for students, children and seniors and $13 for adults. Tickets can be purchased at TicketStarOnline.com, via phone at 920-494-3401 or toll-free 1-800-895-0071, or in person at the Ticket Star Box Office (located inside the Resch Center) from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.