School of Rock – The Musical opened in November 2016 and is one of four Lloyd Webber shows – with Phantom of the Opera, Evita and Jesus Christ Superstar – which have played concurrently in the West End during 2017. The West End production of School of Rock The Musical is the recipient of the Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music.
Having played the role of alternate Dewey since May 2017, Stephen Leask now leads the cast as Dewey Finn (from 15th November 2017), as the show enters its second year in the West End.
Stephen recently took time out to chat with us about the show.
Q: Can you tell us about ‘your’ Dewey Finn?
Stephen: I like to think that I bring a lot of energy to the role. I’ve always been very physical and I’ve added in a few somersaults and handsprings here and there. Dewey lives in the moment and says exactly what he’s thinking. I’ve tried to emphasise that honesty in the character.
Q: What do you enjoy most about School of Rock?
Stephen: Working with the kids. They are so talented and it’s amazing to see how they develop as performers. It’s incredible to have been part of their journey from first rehearsals back in July to where they are now. Their confidence grows and grows. They take real ownership of the show and have such a mature and professional attitude. They are also very funny.
Q: Apart from Dewey Finn – who is your favourite character in the musical – and why?
Stephen: I really like the part of Summer. She starts out as this overconfident, slightly bossy, teacher’s pet, who isn’t sure about Mr. Schneebly (Dewey) coming in and messing up her lessons! Eventually, Summer and Dewey become friends and she’s the brains behind the whole operation! She is important to Dewey and has some very funny lines!
Q: What is your usual routine for a performance day?
Stephen: I usually get to the theatre at 5:30pm and do a vocal warm-up in my dressing room. It’s a big sing so I like to get started early. At 6:15pm I join in with the physical and vocal warm-up with the rest of the cast and the kids. It’s nice to get everyone together before the show.
After warm-up the band kids let me join them in having a 15-minute jam session. I say “let me” because they can play just about anything and I’m always trying to catch up! After that, I go to the green room and have a chat and then at “the half” I get in costume ready to start the show at 7:30!
Q: Do you have a favourite song in the show?
Stephen: I love the song “Stick It To The Man”. It’s the song in the show where the kids finally let go and start rebelling against their parents and teachers. The song has some great lyrics and the meaning behind it is to stand up for yourself and not let “the man” push you around. The number also has great choreography and the audience always get behind it!
Q: “Everyone wants to be a rock star on some level – and I get to do that every night.” Can you tell us about your ‘dreams’ as a teenager/young actor? and now…
I played drums from the age of 10 and really wanted to be a drummer in a rock band! That changed when I started doing shows at school and when I learnt I could make people laugh I wanted to be a comedian. Now, I want to keep performing for as long as I can and maybe move into more TV and Film.
Q: A memorable moment from your career?
Stephen: When I was training at LAMDA I played the part of Shauva in Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle. I got a good reaction from the audience and after the show a man came up to me and said, “Very funny. Very similar to my version, when I played him.” That was the first time I met Alan Rickman and I was utterly speechless.
Q: Who was your inspiration to get onto the stage?
Stephen: I am a huge fan of both Philip Seymour Hoffman and Gary Oldman but I have always been a big fan of comic actors. People like Peter Sellers, Robin Williams, Rik Mayall have always inspired me. I also think that Rory Kinnear is one of best stage actors in the world and love watching him perform.
Q: Away from performing – what do you like to do to chill out?
Stephen: I love to cook. I’m a total foodie and am always trying new and different things. I know some people can find cooking stressful but I’ve always found it relaxing. Plus, you get to eat!
Q: For any young actor just starting out, any message for them?
Stephen: Be patient! Don’t worry about “making it” as soon as you leave drama school or university. It has taken me 10 years to get where I am now and I’m a better actor for it. Everyone has their own journey to take, so enjoy it and don’t rush!
Before joining the School of Rock company Stephen Leask’s previous theatre credits include Robin Hood at The Egg, Theatre Royal Bath, One Man, Two Guvnors at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, A Little Hotel on the Side for Theatre Royal Bath, Potted Panto at the Vaudeville Theatre, The Secret Garden for Birmingham Rep and Troilus and Cressida for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Leask is a member of the Merely Players, a theatre company dedicated to producing accessible productions of Shakespeare. His television appearances include Nightmares, Doctors, Our World War, The Intern and EastEnders.
School of Rock The Musical
New London Theatre
166 Drury Lane, London, WC2B 5PW