School of Rock Starts at Home

NQOMT's School of Rock
NQOMT will present School of Rock in Townsville on. PHOTOGRAPHY: OneT Creations and Sonia Warrell

If you’ve ever pondered the Nature vs Nurture debate, the cast of NQOMT’s School of Rock will have you scratching your scalp more feverishly than before.

The cast list reads like an intricate family tree, drawing a knot of roots and branches between kids, cousins, mums, dads, aunts and uncles. Stalwarts of Townsville’s musical theatre are sure to get a thrill seeing generations of local families taking the stage together.

School of Rock is the musical adaptation of the 2003 Jack Black film of the same name. The story follows wannabe rocker Dewey Finn – played by Kelly Stone (Jesus Christ Superstar, Little Shop of Horrors) – who poses as a substitute teacher at the prestigious Horace Green Prep School. When Dewey learns his students are classically trained musicians, he takes them through a crash course in rock n roll to ready for an upcoming Battle of the Bands.

The premise paves the way for new talent to shine and the Horace Green band is made up of Kelly’s own son Elden Stone, niece Alyssandra Higgins, nephew Jonan Clay and now honorary family member Mariella Maceachern. Alyssandra, Jonan and Mariella also have parents in the show.

The School of Rock Band: Jonan Clay, Alyssandra Higgins, Mariella Mcearchern and Elden Stone. PHOTOGRAPHY: Sonia Warrell

The group says it’s been an interesting challenge rehearsing alongside their parents and extended family.

“My Dad’s in the show and it’s really weird to see him speaking and acting differently from normal,” said Mariella. “It’s a good experience to do it with Dad and with everyone around me.”

Alyssandra agrees it’s been helpful to have at-home support.

“We sing all the time at home,” she said “Mum, my sister Charli and I are singing constantly. We get to practice our harmonies or help each other with dance moves, which kind of makes it handy that we’re all in the show together.”

Familiarity has helped the group find their vibe as a band quickly.

“Getting together for that first band rehearsal was so exciting,” Alyssandra says. “We’d only planned to do three of the songs and we got through all of them – the entire set of the show. It felt magical.”

But there will be no ‘theatre magic’ when the Horace Green band takes the stage. All four actors will play their own instruments live and they have each been challenged to up their game for School of Rock.

“Instead of thinking ‘wow, cool, you’re in a musical!’, I’m in a musical now.”

Jonan and Alyssandra have learned to play drums and guitar specifically for the show. Mariella has switched from piano to rocking out on keys and Elden has taken on lead guitar more seriously than before.

“I’ve played electric guitar for a long time but never really played lead guitar too much,” Elden says. “I would play some chords and stuff in our band a little bit, but this is a lot more.”

Jonan echoes his cousin’s sentiment in switching from guitar to drums.

“I’ve played a lot of rock for a while now, maybe a couple of years,” says Jonan. “It’s really cool to be able to play with my Dad and uncles. It feels like I’m their equal. Instead of thinking ‘wow, cool, you’re in a musical!’, I’m in a musical now.”

So were the members of this foursome born with the talent they’re about to unleash? Or is it a by-product of being raised in musical households?

You may have to see School of Rock to decide for yourself.

NQOMT will present School of Rock at the Townsville Civic Theatre from 23 March to 2 April 2022.

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