John Szablewski Previews

First Look: ‘School of Rock’ at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre

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The North American Touring Company of “School of Rock.”

To be Andrew Lloyd Webber these days must be very nice. Just think, in the 2017 season, he had 4 shows running on Broadway at the same time. “Cats,” “Sunset Boulevard,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” and his newest work, “School of Rock.” Three of his shows are coming to Buffalo this season! The brand that Andrew Lloyd Webber has created is a powerhouse, and the hits just keep on coming. Buffalo will have the opportunity to see his newest one, an adaptation of the 2003 film, “School of Rock.”

“I became aware of ‘School of Rock’ while I was on tour with “The Phantom of the Opera,’” says Merritt David Janes, who will be playing Dewey in a few of the performances when the show comes to Shea’s Buffalo Theatre next week. “I was lucky enough to audition and become one of the original Broadway cast members of the show.”

“School of Rock” tells the story of a group of straight-A students who are corrupted by a wannabe rockstar substitute teacher, and while they should be studying their lessons, they actually are studying music. Boasting the creation of the first ever kid rock band, “School of Rock” has been turning heads and getting the attention of audiences everywhere.

Andrew Lloyd Webber returns to his rock and roll roots with this new show, writing 14 brand new songs for it. “This show reminds me a little of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ in that it is wonderfully written rock music,” says Janes, “Webber is no stranger to writing rock songs, and it really shows here.”

As a member of the original Broadway cast, Janes had the opportunity to see Webber working on the show, and working through the music, “His musical mind is very interesting, and to see him work was a great experience.”

One of the big components of the show are the kids. These kid actors not only had to learn their speaking parts and how to sing the new songs, but they also play all the rock music themselves. “We had over 10,000 kids audition for these parts, and they had to work so hard to get to where they are,” says Janes who adds that he studied to be a music teacher before becoming an actor, “I am so proud of the work they do, and I am so proud that I get to work with them on this show.”

In case it wasn’t clear, the kids PLAY THEIR OWN LIVE MUSIC. “There is a pit orchestra to accompany in transition music, and some underscoring, but the kids in the band are playing their own music,” clarifies Janes. “There is just something about seeing these kids playing in a professional setting that makes my jaw drop in awe,”  he laughs.

A show where children have such power is definitely something that audiences will surely enjoy. “This is a cool production, with lots of reach,” says Janes, “Seeing today’s youth working so hard to do such great things, is a wonderful thing.”

“School of Rock” runs April 3 – 8, 2018 and is presented at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre. For more information, click here.