BWW Interview: Leanne Parks of SCHOOL OF ROCK - THE MUSICAL at Overture Center
Based on the hit film, SCHOOL OF ROCK - THE MUSICAL is a hilarious new musical that follows Dewey Finn, a failed, wannabe rock star who decides to earn a few extra bucks by posing as a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school. There he turns a class of straight-A students into a guitar-shredding, bass-slapping, mind-blowing rock band. While teaching these pint-sized prodigies what it means to truly rock, Dewey falls for the school's beautiful, but uptight headmistress, helping her rediscover the wild child within.
Rocking the roofs off theatres across the country are a group of mega talented kids who have traded their time in the schoolroom for an adventure on tour. Leanne Parks, an eleven-year-old sixth grader, plays Katie, the classically trained cellist turned bass guitar genius. Leanne took time out of her hectic schedule to answer a few questions about her experience with School of Rock.
What instrument do you play in the show?
I play electric bass. I started out in my local School of Rock, where we used to live (Long Island). Everyone started in Rock 101. I wanted to sing and play the keys since I knew how to play piano but a bunch of little girls wanted to sing and a bunch of little boys wanted to play the keys.
A teacher was playing bass so after the rehearsal, my dad asked if they needed a bass player. The teacher said "Yes! Does she play bass?" and my dad answered, "She will by next week." So, we got an amazon bass and I have never wanted to put it down since.
Did you ever dream of performing on stage?
I have never really dreamed of being on Broadway but I have dreamed of doing something on stage, whether it was bass, piano, singing, or dancing.
Was it scary to audition?
It wasn't scary in the open call because there were so many people and I wasn't even expecting to get a callback. Each callback made me more and more nervous because I was getting closer to being on the Broadway Tour.
Do you ever get stage fright?
On my opening night I was very nervous backstage, but then I got on stage and I felt so excited. The only time I get nervous is when I do my bass solo because I feel every single eyeball looking at me. It makes me nervous but also very important at the same time.
What is your favorite number?
My favorite number in the show is Stick it To Man because it energizes me and I feel strong.
Do your parents travel with you?
My dad travels with me full-time and my mom visits us on the road when her schedule allows. My mom is actually here in Madison right now. My dad tries to come to every show and when my mom comes they both go to the show.
How much time do you spend in school while on the road?
We have three tutors that travel with us. We do five hours of school from Tuesday to Thursday. I have an online school so when I need help I ask one of the tutors.
What's the best thing about being on tour?
The best thing is performing and also being able to spend time with people that have the same passions like me. It's great to have these people on tour with me and they are all part of my family.
What do you want to do when you grow up?
I would like to be an electrical engineer, a lawyer, or a detective by day and a bassist, actress, rock star by night.
Any advice for other kids who would like a life on the stage?
If you can dream it you can make it happen. Always practice and keep practicing and when you have blisters on your hands from doing something keep doing it if that is what you love. Never wait until your parents tell you to go practice, find any spare moment you have to practice what you love.
SCHOOL OF ROCK - THE MUSICAL is based on the smash hit 2003 film of the same, featuring music from the movie, as well as an original score by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Glenn Slater, a book by Julian Fellowes, choreography by JoAnn M. Hunter and direction by Laurence Connor.
Rocking the roofs off of theaters across America, the School of Rock - The Musical national tour stars stars Merritt David Janes as Dewey, Lexie Dorsett Sharp as Rosalie, Madison Micucci as Patty, Layne Roate as Ned, Gary Trainoras Dewey Alternate, Deidre Lang as Ms. Sheinkopf, Arianna Pereira as Shonelle, Leanne Parks as Katie, Alyssa Emily Marvin as Marcy, Julian Brescia as Mason, Grier Burke as Tomika, Cameron Trueblood as Freddy, Mystic Inscho as Zack, Sammy Dell as Billy, Theo Mitchell-Penner as Lawrence and Sami Bray as Summer. The adult ensemble features John Campione, Patrick Clanton, Christopher De Angelis, Kristian Espiritu, Melanie Evans, Liam Fennecken, Brian Golub, Elysia Jordan, Sinclair Mitchell, JP Qualters, Tim Shea, Jonathon Timpanelli. The kid's ensemble features Natalia Bingham, Bella Fraker, Jacob Moran, Blake Ryan, Jesse Sparks and Gabriella Uhl.
SCHOOL OF ROCK - THE MUSICAL opened on Broadway to rave reviews on Sunday, December 6, 2015. This Ben Brantley New York Times 'Critics' Pick' "is an inspiring jolt of energy and mad skillz," raves Jesse Oxfeld of Entertainment Weekly. And in his four-star Critics' Pick review, Time Out's David Cote proclaimed, "School's IN - forever!" SCHOOL OF ROCK - THE MUSICAL was nominated for four 2016 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Score (Lloyd Webber and Slater), Best Book (Fellowes), and Best Leading Actor in a Musical (Alex Brightman). SCHOOL OF ROCK - THE MUSICAL also won the 2017 Oliver award for Outstanding Achievement in Music.
SCHOOL OF ROCK - THE MUSICAL plays Madison's Overture Center for the Arts Tuesday, Nov. 20 - Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018. Tickets are available at the Overture Center Ticket Office (201 State Street), by phone (608.258.4141) or online (overture.org). Groups of 10+ may be eligible for discounted tickets; for information, please call 608.258.4159.