NEW YORK (AP) — You may never get too old to rock, but the sad truth is that the kids who play it on Broadway do.
That’s why the creators of “The School of Rock” constantly need to replenish their stock of pint-sized rockers. Last week, they held open auditions that drew a few hundred kids aged 9-12 to the Winter Garden Theatre.
There were three potential roles for boys — guitarist, drums and piano — while girls were asked to play bass. The children were brought up to the stage in groups of 20 and then each took turns singing a cappella or along with their instruments. All ethnicities were welcome as long as the kids were under 5-feet tall.
“At first I was so nervous. I went up there and then people started going and I was like, ‘OK, they don’t seem to be vomiting everywhere,'” said Cosmo Lieberman, 9, a piano player from Los Angeles, who sang Imagine Dragons’ “Demons” at his first Broadway audition.
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Other audition songs ranged from The Beatles’ “I Saw Her Standing There” to Joan Jett and The Blackhearts’ “I Love Rock and Roll.” Artists who got covered on the massive stage included Twisted Sister, Journey, Coldplay, AC/DC and Kelly Clarkson.
Among those watching was Andrew Lloyd Webber, the show’s composer and producer, in town in part to help on the upcoming Broadway revival of his “Cats” and who couldn’t resist peeking in at the Winter Garden: “I wouldn’t miss this.”
The stage version of “School of Rock” stays close to the plot of the Jack Black-led 2003 film, in which a wannabe rocker who hopes to one day “stick it to the Man” enlists his fifth-graders to form a rock group and conquer the Battle of the Bands.
The current cast includes a truly awesome kid band — Evie Dolan on bass, Brandon Niederauer on guitar, Dante Melucci on drums and Jared Parker on keyboard. “I think our kids’ rock band can rock out with the best of them,” said Lloyd Webber. “They should really play as a band in their own right.”
The open auditions were a way for the seven-member audition team to bank potential replacements for the Broadway cast as well as possible future tour candidates. For kids like Jake Katzman, a 10-year-old drummer from New York, it was a chance to be stunned by the size of the theater. “It’s amazing,” he said. “This place is like huge.”
Lloyd Webber, a champion of musical education, teamed up with the licensing company R&H Theatricals last fall to announce they would grant rights for youth performances of the “School of Rock” musical before the musical’s professional opening.
The move is unprecedented and fitting for a musical about empowering kids. “I like to think actually that ‘School of Rock’ is rather anarchic anyway. Maybe I’m getting older and just going back to my second childhood,” Lloyd Webber said, laughing.
Lloyd Webber said some 300 schools have now signed up to do the show and the first production opens this week: Producer Carole Shorenstein Hays invited students of the Oakland School for the Arts to mount the show at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco.