By LUCY WORMALD
Since watching the film at age 11, it’s been Jake Hansen’s dream to play Dewey Finn, the wannabe rock star lead in School of Rock.
‘‘It was genuinely an iconic, life-changing sort of thing — I watched it every day for about three months,’’ he says.
So when community theatre company Showbiz Queenstown announced it was presenting the School of Rock musical this year, he knew this was his chance.
The musical features songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber and follows failed musician Dewey Finn as he poses as a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school and turns his class, through a series of misadventures and triumphs, into a rock band.
Twenty-nine cast members, 13 of whom are children, and over 50 crew members are set to bring the story to the stage over nine shows this month.
Hansen says his job as Wakatipu High’s performing arts teacher sets him in good stead for the role and he looks forward to ‘‘putting his money where his mouth is’’.
‘‘I think I fit the character quite well … I have the ability to sound off and be loud and be big and sort of daunting with it, but at the same time show a caring side as well.
‘‘It has helped in the classroom scenes — teaching is second nature so I don’t have to prep for those scenes, I hope my colleagues don’t think that’s how I actually teach.’’
While Hansen has enjoyed learning the guitar for the role and bringing another iteration of the Dewey Finn character to life, the chemistry of the cast and the underlying message of the show have been the highlights of the experience so far.
‘‘It’s about being yourself, freedom to challenge or freedom to have your voice, and say what you think.
‘‘Obviously, it’s intertwined with silly jokes and gimmicks and someone being a fraud teacher but there’s some really beautiful moments in the show that highlight those relationships between the kids and when he [Dewey] gets the opportunity to actually teach them, some really valuable life stuff,’’ he says.
Despite Covid interruptions, Queenstown’s lack of a theatre, and the usual challenges of pulling a stage show together, rehearsals, which began mid-February, are going great.
‘‘Covid has definitely challenged us … but we’re just so determined to be together and be creating something and to be performing for an audience,’’ director Lisa Clough says.
Her third directorial role with Showbiz Queenstown, having co-directed both their 40th anniversary show and Annie in 2015, Clough says School of Rock really showcases the district’s youth talent.
‘‘We’ve got people actually playing instruments on the stage which is a great opportunity, especially for the young kids who play music.’’
She says the kids have brought ‘‘heaps of energy’’ to the show, forming a special camaraderie with the adult cast.
‘‘They’ve got a really lovely rapport … and then we’ve obviously got the beautiful Jake who is just incredible with the kids and they just respect him so much, it’s just been a really fun atmosphere.’’
Self-professed musical theatre nerd and the show’s production manager Vicki Elliott says seeing the music side of things come together has lifted the experience to a new level.
‘‘It’s just so rewarding seeing it all come together … it’s a privilege to oversee everything.’’
As well as the instruments on stage, Showbiz will have a live band accompanying the show for the first time since their 2015 production of Mamma Mia!, Elliott says.
‘‘It’s such a major, integral part of the show and it brings a different dimension to it — it’s going to really rock.
‘‘We’re so lucky we’ve got people here who are willing to put all the work in doing a show like this to a small town like Queenstown.’’
Clough says audiences can expect a full-blown concert experience, incredible singing and dancing, and a fast-paced, funny show.
For Hansen, these elements of the show and the opportunity to inspire and engage kids in music have added another dimension to his love of the film.
‘‘I like that there’ll be a good chunk of the audience who know the film so will have something to expect but the musical does such a great job of standing on its own and adding so much more to the story than what the film does.
‘‘They’ve done really well with keeping some of the true iconic moments of the show while bringing their own to it as well, which is really cool.’’
School of Rock The Musical, May 19 – 28, Queenstown Memorial Centre. Tickets via eventfinda