BWW Interview: Gary Trainor Talks Leading SCHOOL OF ROCK

Oliver Jackson and Gary Trainor
in School of Rock

Actor Gary Trainor, whose past work includes the West End productions of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, I Can't Sing and The Shawshank Redemption, has been playing the role of alternate Dewey in School of Rock since its London premiere. He's now leading the cast as Dewey.

What was the first musical you saw?

The first musical I can remember seeing was Blood Brothers; it was on tour, playing at Belfast Grand Opera House. I was blown away by the show. I was about 10 and laughed throughout and was in floods of tears by the end. For weeks after I was continually reciting the "I wish I was our Mickey" speech in my best possible Scouse accent!

When did you realise you wanted to act professionally?

I suppose I always wanted to act professionally from a very young age, but it was only when I got a place in drama school that those dreams felt for the first time achievable and possible.

Where did you train?

I trained at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts.

What was your first professional acting job?

I was very lucky to get a job straight out of training. I played, among others, John the Baptist in Creation Theatre Company's summer production of The Oxford Passion. It was a wonderful job as it was outdoor theatre in the grounds of Oxford Castle. The weather wasn't always so wonderful though - we got soaked a few times!

What were some of the highlights from your time in Beautiful, and did that prepare you for coming into another big show?

There were many highlights. For one it's always so exciting to open a new show in the West End, something I've been lucky to do a few times, most recently with School of Rock. We also got to play with Carole King herself, first at the press night and then when she played Hyde Park we joined her onstage. I suppose having played eight shows a week for a couple of years in Beautiful helped prepare me for the commitment needed for School of Rock.

Gary Trainor and the School of Rock cast

Did you know School of Rock well beforehand?

I had watched the film so many times when I was younger and when I heard the show was coming to London, I must have watched it another two or three times. I knew very little of the stage show though - I did buy the album, which I had on repeat for ages.

Tell us a bit about being the alternate for Dewey

I was at every rehearsal with David Fynn and often would tag team in when scenes were being rerun with different children, so we had a lovely collaborative time where we would feed each other ideas of how the scene could go. As Alternate Dewey I played the part three times a week, so it gave me plenty of time to bed the show in as my own and put my own spin on the role.

When did you find out you'd be taking on the part full-time, and how does it feel to lead the show?

I found out on St Patrick's Day (17 March), which as an Irishman was a lovely coincidence. It was also my birthday on the 20th, so that weekend was one I will remember for many years. I was delighted to be asked to lead the show, I think it will take a few weeks to fully feel how it is to lead, but earlier this week I was in a dressing room about to perform for the ITV show Tonight at the London Palladium, so I could get used to it!

What do you think you bring to Dewey? Were you inspired by anyone in particular?

I think I relate to Dewey quite a lot. I have been a musician in between acting jobs to pay my rent, I have a lot of love for rock and I'm quite a tenacious person. I get compared in looks to Robin Williams quite often and I suppose I look to his comedy performances for inspiration.

Do you share Dewey's taste in music?

Yes most definitely, I am a fan all of the bands he mentions in the show. When I was in secondary school I had a band with some friends called Anti-Cog (we wanted to fight the system!) - we played a lot of covers of songs Dewey would love.

Is it fun being able to show off your guitar playing skills as well?

It is immense fun playing expensive guitars on a stage in front of over 1,000 people each night, however my skills as a guitarist pale in comparison to our young actors who play Zack. I am in awe of those boys when they are soloing, sliding across the stage on their knees!

What's your favourite number to perform?

"You're in the Band" is a great number to perform, as it's the first time Dewey starts bringing the children out of their comfort zones.

What's it like working with all the kids?

A complete nightmare! I'm just kidding, its actually really easy to work with the children - they are very professional and we have a lot of fun both on and off stage.

What do you think the show has to say about arts in school?

Art is transformative: it has the power to help children reach their full potential, or to just bring them out of their shell and express themselves. The show I think highlights that although science and other academic studies are important in school, if they are focused on alone, you may end up with children who act more like automatons than fully rounded young people.

Finally, for people coming to see it, what sort of experience do you think they'll have?

No one leaves this show without a smile on their face. They will laugh, possibly cry, but definitely rock!

School of Rock currently booking at New London Theatre until 14 January, 2018

Photo credit: Tristram Kenton

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