Two multi-talented kids from the cast of "School of Rock" talk about the show and their love of being on stage.
A show doesn’t get much kid-friendlier than when it stars several tweens ages 9 – 12. It’s School of Rock, the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Julian Fellowes musical based on the 2003 Richard Linklater movie starring Jack Black.
School of Rock is the story of a wannabe rock star who pretends to be a substitute teacher in an uptight private school to get his hands on some fast cash. He winds up turning a class of straight-A students into a grade-A rock band.
The theatrical version is unique in that it features 16 quadruple-threat kids. They sing, act, dance and play their own instruments on stage. For the initial Broadway production (which opened December 2015), casting director Merri Sugarman and her team looked at a whopping 22,000 children for the show.
For the national tour, which lands at TPAC this week, the kids in the cast rotate every six months.
SCHOOL OF ROCK KID Q & A
Sami Bray plays Summer. The 10-year-old is no stranger to the stage. She has a Broadway credit under her belt already for her role as the little girl in 1984 and she’s played Cindy Lou Who in the touring production of How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the one that was in Nashville at the Grand Ole Opry House in 2016 and 2017). She also has Off-Broadway credits along with TV roles on Law and Order: SVU and Gotham.
Nine-year-old Mystic Inscho started dancing on stage when he was 4. He sings, he acts and he’s become a multi-instrumentalist, who loves to “shred on guitar” while writing music and lyrics.
We caught up with both kids prior to their arrival in Nashville to chat about the show.
NP: What is your favorite thing about the story of School of Rock?
Sami: My favorite thing about the story of School of Rock is that all the kids change because of the teacher, Dewey.
They used to be up-tight “perfect” little kids, and he showed them that kindness is a thing, love is a thing, there is more to you than just following the rules. It’s important to have a heart and put who you are in what you do.
Mystic: The strict, fancy private school kids discover their love for rock music.
NP: Sami, you play Summer, the classmate who’s a stickler for appropriate protocol who becomes the band manager. What do you love about the character you’re playing?
Sami: I love Summer. I love how uptight she is and how she begins to want something besides just good grades. She wants to be a part of something bigger than herself. Before Dewey shows up, all she cares about is her own performance and getting “gold stars.” After Dewey, she wants to be a part of something that isn’t just about her.
NP: Mystic, you play Zack, the lead guitarist. What do you like most about your character, and how long have you been playing guitar?
Mystic: What I like most is how Zack transformed. He used to play acoustic guitar and he was ignored by his father. Then he learns how to shred on electric guitar and learns to express his feelings. I can relate to that. I have been playing guitar for two years.
NP: Sami, what was your very first role on stage, and when did you discover a passion for acting?
Sami: My first role on stage was in a musical called Honk. I was 4 years old at the time, and I played a baby duckling. In all honesty, I was a very wiggly little egg. I am now 10 years old. I was 4 when I first discovered the stage and I knew I wanted to perform for the rest of my life. My big sister was a performer and I was following in her footsteps. One of my very favorite roles was in Nashville when I got to play Cindy Lou Who at the Grand Ole Opry House when I was 7 and 8. I fell in love with Nashville.
NP: Mystic, how did you go about preparing for this role? What other instruments do you play, and do you enjoy playing one instrument over another?
Mystic: I practiced a lot and went to a lot of different teachers. Learning to do guitar solos is hard work, but I enjoyed it a lot. I also play the piano and drums. I like classical music on the piano, and I like to drum to whatever music that I hear and make up my own beats.
NP: What do you enjoy most about traveling to so many cities on this tour? Do your parents travel with you?
Sami: I love getting to see so many different cities. I haven’t gotten to travel that much in my life so this is a huge adventure for me. very city has it’s own unique things, and I am so excited to experience them all. My parents do travel with me. My mom, mad and grandma all travel with me, but they take turns. They love traveling with me.
Mystic: I like to meet the locals. I find the accents are interesting, and I like to imitate them. My mom travels with me.
NP: Where is home for you, and what do you do to keep up with friends and family?
Sami: My home is Memphis, but my heart is in New York City. Over the last few years, I have spent about equal time in both Memphis and New York. I have wonderful friends in both places that I keep up with with phone calls, texts, Instagram and playdates. My family comes with me wherever I go.
Mystic: I haven’t been on tour for too long. I call my dad very often. I read my friend’s Instagram. I was able to visit my friends during my layoff week. My home is at Castro Valley, east bay of San Francisco.
NP: What do you hope to do next, after your time with School of Rock?
Sami: After my time with School of Rock, I hope to continue with my acting and go on another amazing adventure. I would love to do another show on Broadway.
Mystic: I hope to keep on rocking. I want to spend more time writing my own music. And I will keep on auditioning to get more opportunities.
NP: Seeing School of Rock might be the very first theater experience for some kids in the audience. What advice do you have for kids in the audience who walk away saying, “I want to do THAT!”?
Sami: My advice is to go for it! Try your hardest and never give up. It’s what I did, and one day you will get there. Start in your local community theater and learn everything you can. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Keep working hard and your dreams will come true. I remember the first time I saw a kid performing and I remember that feeling. When I was 7, I had a local director take notice of me and push me in the right direction. I am so thankful to her. At the time, I was playing the role of a Munchkin in The Wizard of Oz, with literally one line. You just never know when it might be your moment.
Mystic: I say, “Yes, you can do it!” I started out with dancing, and I didn’t know I could play many instruments until I tried them. If you have interests and work hard, it is possible. As my teachers say, keep on dreaming, keep on training.
IF YOU GO:
HCA/TriStar Health Broadway at TPAC presents:
School of Rock (Sept. 10 – 16; All ages)
TPAC’s Jackson Hall
505 Deaderick St., Nashville
615-782-4040 | tpac.org
Showtimes: Tue – Thu 7:30 p.m., Fri 8 p.m., Sat 2 & 8 p.m., Sun 1 & 6:30 p.m.
Tickets: $40 – $90