back Oliver Jackson Ned Schneebly front Gary Trainor Dewey Finn photo by Tristram Kenton

Gary Trainor, who has recently taken on the full-time lead role of Dewey Finn in School of Rock the Musical, talks inspiring child actors, Robin Williams, and playing in a one man band.

Please could you sum up School of Rock the Musical in one sentence?

School of Rock the Musical takes you on a journey of children discovering their inner rock stars chaperoned by the man-child wannabee rocker, Dewey Finn. Bellies are rumbled with laughter, tears are shed with pride, and faces are melted with kick a** riffs.

You’re playing the role of Dewey Finn. How did you get the part?

I was the original alternate Dewey when School of Rock first came to the West End. I got that role from getting an audition through my agents, who worked hard to get me seen. I had three auditions in total, each more nerve wracking than the last, until finally I got the phone call offering me the job. I was lucky enough then to be promoted to lead when David Fynn (the previous Dewey) left the production.

Tell us a bit about Dewey’s character.

Dewey is one-track minded, and he wants to rock! He loves everything about the genre to the point that the rest of his life takes a back seat with regard to finding gainful employment and doing adult things like paying the rent. He is tenacious in his ambition to win Battle of the Bands, and sees no problem enlisting the help of prep school children to fulfil his dream. He is, however, a very caring person and helps the children as much as they help him.

How does being the lead now compare to being the alternate?

As alternate, I played the role three times per week, so I got a lot of time to bed the show in and put my own mark on the role. Having moved up to lead playing five shows a week I find that I have to be more careful with my body with regard to fitness, and be very careful with my voice outside of work as it is a big sing, and Dewey is a very high energy character. It is really nice to front the show though and have more shows to play with the character.

The Cast of School of Rock with Gary Trainor centre photo by Tristram Kenton

Pictured: The cast of School of Rock with Gary Trainor in the centre. (Photo credit: Tristram Kenton).

Why do you think audiences like this musical?

School of Rock the Musical appeals in so many ways. Children love it as they see their peers up rocking on stage, and many people love it because it is very faithful to the original movie which is loved the world over. But I think the main reason people enjoy it is because it is funny, the music is incredible, the story heart-warming and the children musicians phenomenal.

How do you think audiences feel when they leave the theatre after watching this show?

A lot of people feel genuinely inspired, and we have heard of many occasions where children subsequently begged their parents for a guitar or drums etc.

How do you find it working with child actors and actresses?

It is a lot of fun, all the young actors are so committed and they are very funny so we get on like a house on fire. It’s also a testament to the child creative team that the children are so drilled in their moves and lines that you could mix up all three groups of kids and they’d perform like a well-oiled machine!

Do you have a favourite scene in the show?

I really like the bar scene with Florence who plays Ms Mullins. It is a lot of fun playing around with the Stevie Nicks song Edge of Seventeen. But the best scene by far has to be the finale when the stage rotates and I am there with the young actors to rock out our Battle of the Bands number.

Do you have a favourite musical number?

I really enjoy singing Mount Rock, It’s a very exposing number as it is just me singing throughout and you really get to visualise Dewey’s dreams of being a rock star.

Do you have a favourite character other than your own?

I love playing drums (although I’m not amazing at it) so if I were 11 I think I’d love to play Freddie our band drummer as he has lots of lovely bits through the show and plays some awesome rhythms.

What acting roles would you love to play in the future?

I’m told quite often that I look like or remind people of Robin Williams, so if there ever were a biopic done of him or maybe even a Mrs Doubtfire musical, I’d be banging down the doors to get a chance at playing him.

Where would we find you when you’re not performing?

Outside of School of Rock the Musical commitments, I play in a lot of Irish bars in a one man band, with a mixture of folk and rock numbers. And on days off I like to chill out and rest up – you’d probably find me knee deep in a Netflix series.

School of Rock the Musical is playing at the New Theatre London until 14th January. Group rates are available for parties of eight or more for Monday to Thursday performances.

Lead image: Gary Trainor as Dewey Finn (front) and Oliver Jackson as Ned Schneebly (back). (Photo credit: Tristram Kenton).