The 2003 film School of Rock inspired a generation to not just love music but to pursue their passions. In Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical version, Dewey Finn and his class of loveable rockers return to spread a similar message of embracing what makes each person different and following one’s dreams.
The musical’s national tour will visit ASU Gammage from Tuesday, June 19, to Sunday, June 24.
School of Rock The Musical follows a similar storyline as the movie, with Finn pretending to be a substitute teacher and inspiring a love of music in his students as they prepare for a Battle of the Bands competition.
On the national tour, Rob Colletti plays Dewey Finn, a role originated by Jack Black. The show also stars Lexie Dorsett Sharp as Rosalie, the school’s principal.
The show is meant to inspire people of different generations, but it has especially had an impact on children.
“We might not be Hamilton. We might not be The Book of Mormon, in terms of the cultural influence that our story has, but it’s still a really uplifting, important story,” Colletti says. “We have kids who leave the show and want to go get a guitar the next day and learn to play an instrument.”
Colletti grew up playing sports and never expected to be an actor until he got cast in a high school production of Clue: The Musical.
“A friend of mine was going to audition for a play. I was at my locker after school on a day that practice got cancelled for my baseball team. He asked if I wanted to go with him, and I did, and I ended up getting a lead role. Then, the rest is history. I fell in love with it, and my teacher encouraged me to continue with it,” Colletti says.
The actor has gone on to play Elder Cunningham on Broadway in The Book of Mormon and perform in regional productions of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, The Original Grease, Fiddler on the Roof and Of Mice and Men.
As the show’s main character, Colletti tries to make the role his own without straying too far from the original intent.
“I think that there’s only so much room that we have to play with it given that Jack Black created the role, and Mike White wrote it for him…His footprints and his dialogue are all over the script,” Colletti says. “I’m trying to do my own thing every night, but at the same time, I’m really trying to pay homage to Jack’s brilliant performance.”
The show goes more into the backstories of all of the characters, including the students and the principal. Colletti says leading lady Sharp portrays Rosalie with a level of depth that makes her character likable and relatable.
“She brings such a humanity and such an incredible demeanor to this fully-fleshed-out human being. It would be very easy to root against her, but she gives her such humanity and such a kind heart. You see her longing to be who she once was,” Colletti says.
Many of the children in the show started out as musicians and had to learn acting along the way.
“They auditioned thousands of kids over the years to try to cast the show. They look for musicians before they look for actors…They’re so good, even though a majority of these kids have never been in a play before in their entire lives,” Colletti said.
the role of Finn has challenged Colletti more on a physical level than other roles he has played.
“I obviously played Elder Cunningham. Even that never required the energy and strength that this show does. I had to see a personal trainer while we were getting ready for rehearsals. It’s a good thing I did because if I hadn’t, I would be winded after the first ten minutes of the show,” Colletti says.
The show is very movement-heavy for the actor, who is onstage almost the entire time.
“I’m all over the stage. I move left to right…I’m jumping on and off desks, platforms all the time. I see a physical therapist twice a week just to work my legs because they take such a beating,” Colletti says.
During the tour, Colletti has been doing five shows a week, with his understudy performing during matinees. He says this is necessary because his part is so vocally-demanding.
“Everybody who they’ve had play the role twice a day has blown their voice out. They’ve learned very quickly that it just can’t be done,” Colletti says.
Along with his work with musical theater, the actor has appeared in the mockumentary WTF: World Thumbwrestling Federation and the film Garlic & Gunpowder. A graduated of Columbia College, he has also worked with the Second City improv school/theater.
As the “music teacher” in School of Rock The Musical, Colletti brings comedy and acting skills and musicianship to his role.
Like the kids he works with, he plays his own guitar onstage.
Colletti says he identifies with his character because he loved rock music growing up.
“The taste that Dewey Finn has in music and culture is very similar to me. I grew up listening to all of that. I’m a little bit rebellious and definitely fit the mold of trying to get people to do what speaks to their hearts as opposed to what’s expected of them,” Colletti says.
The show blends musical theater and rock music and incorporates some songs from the original movie.
In some sections, it has a concert feeling, as the actors interact more directly with the audience.
Webber is best known for Phantom of the Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita. Colletti said School of Rock The Musical has a similar vibe and sound in some ways.
“I think that Jesus Christ Superstar dictated his path. It’s why Evita is so spectacular. Phantom of the Opera. They are so amazing because they have those elements of really great, moving, infectious pop and rock. This here is no exception,” Colletti says.
National Tour of The School of Rock The Musical, ASU Gammage, 1200 S. Forest Avenue, Tempe, 480.965.3434, asugammage.com, Tuesday, June 19, to Sunday, June 24, tickets start at $20.