"There was a day earlier on in the process where we were all at his [Lloyd Webber's] big country estate, and he opened up a cabinet and it was filled with vinyl, things like Ultimate Spinach and AC/DC records….so we just turned on the sound system and blasted it through the house," said Slater.
"It was so much fun, being able to go back to that point of his composing life and dig our hands into that has been absolutely a blast."
Multi-Tony-winning composer Lloyd Webber, whose The Phantom of the Opera is the longest-running show on Broadway, made his Main Stem debut with the rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar in 1971. His latest project, School of Rock, is based on the film of the same name starring Jack Black, about down-on-his-luck wannabe rock star Dewey Finn, who poses as a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school. The show was performing a New York showcase last week at the Gramercy Theatre, where the creative team opened up about its development.
In School of Rock, Alex Brightman (Glory Days, Wicked) leads a cast of talented young performers, sourced from all over the United States. "We came here at the beginning of the year and did a huge, massive, nation-wide search, and we saw literally thousands of the most talented children that this country could possibly provide," said Connor, who helmed the current Broadway revival of Les Miz.
"To whittle it down to these incredible children you see before you has been something else. To find children of this age, who can play this well and can act as well as they do, has been such a remarkable journey for us." Connor explained that it was important to find young children for the show, no older than 12. "We're used to seeing on these TV shows, children performing with these great talents, so it's not a surprise to see talent. When you see a teenage child rocking out, they've already identified who they are," he said. "But when you see young children who are still innocent and have those innocent beliefs, there's a way that when you see them find something and develop it and get better at it and become better people as a result of it, it really works for the story."
Connor also added that the week-long trial run at the Gramercy had allowed the creative team to make significant and beneficial changes, taking advantage of the children's spontaneous energy and ideas. "Most of what you see is the stuff that they've [the children] created," he said. "[The show] has changed considerably. What we started out with was an entirely different Act One; we completely restructured the first 25 minutes."
"What's been brilliant about working here and working in this way is that we could just simply sit down, have a meeting, rewrite that and then work out how we're going to do it, take one day with the cast and quickly do that," continued Connor.
School of Rock - The Musical features a book by Julian Fellowes, lyrics by Slater and new music by Lloyd Webber. Three-time Grammy Award winner Rob Cavallo is also part of the creative team. The production, slated for Broadway this fall, will feature choreography by JoAnn M. Hunter, scenic and costume design by Anna Louizos, lighting design by Natasha Katz and sound design by Mick Potter. Nina Lannan serves as executive producer.
Performances are scheduled to begin Nov. 9 at Broadway's Winter Garden Theatre prior to an official opening Dec. 6. Visit SchoolOfRockTheMusical.