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SCHOOL OF ROCK SA (article first published : 2008-07-1)

School of Rock SA – an adaptation of the 2003 Jack Black movie – is this year’s Unilever Young Performers’ Project which opens on July 4 at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre in Durban featuring Barry Thomson in the lead role.

This year – the eighth Unilever Young Performers Project – is directed by Themi Venturas. The annual project provides strong opportunities for talented high school learners to experience the world of professional theatre by performing in a musical show that is totally professional – except all the cast (except for Thomson) are high school learners from throughout KZN.

School of Rock is a 2003 cult-movie featuring Jack Black as Dewey Finn – an ambitious rock guitarist with delusions of grandeur, and not much money. Kicked out of his band and desperate for work, he impersonates a substitute teacher in a posh prep school and turns a class of fifth grade high-achievers into rock and rollers to enter the local battle of the bands to win the much-needed $25,000 prize money. Written specifically for Black by screenwriter/actor Mike White, this outrageously entertaining crowd-pleaser elevated Black to comedy superstar status. The no-nonsense headmistress is played by Joan Cusack.

Director Themi Venturas is producing and directing the show this year and has adapted the story for stage by transforming it into a musical. Venturas has chosen a phenomenal line up of classic and alternative rock music and some beautiful ballads for the production: Roll over Beethoven; Immigrant Song; Schools Out for Summer; Christina Aguilera’s Beautiful; Rocking the Suburbs; Play that Funky Music White Boy; Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now; Queen’s Under Pressure; Whole of the Moon and I Believe I Can.

The school is now based in South Africa and the story line has been tweaked a little to make it more relevant to a local theatre-audience – it is set in Hilltop High - and the “class outing” where the school rockers perform, is to acoustic / rock festival, Splashy Fen. The Jack Black role is being played with much panache and humour by guitar maestro Barry Thomson.

The 2008 Unilever Young Performers’ project is scheduled to run from July 5 to 20 this year at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre. School of Rock SA follows the last seven successful Unilever Young Performers musicals, Curtain Up, One Voice, Grease, Oliver, Fiddler on the Roof, The Wiz and last year’s Annie.

The cast is made up of local high school learners who successfully auditioned in March – and have been rehearsing every weekend in a totally professional context. The on-stage band and vocalists are all high school learners.

For the first time, the production is staged under the auspices of PANSA (the Performing Arts Network of SA). For further information contact the co-ordinator- Daisy Spencer at the Performing Arts Network of South Africa KZN (PANSA KZN) on tel/fax 031 309 5838 or email kzn@pansa.org.za

Booking for School of Rock SA is through Computicket or on 083 915 8000. Tickets R75 throughout (except July 4 – Gala evening R80 with cocktail party) Concessions – scholars and pensioners R50.




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