By Morgan Politzer
Lexie Dorsett Sharp plays the role of Rosalie, the leading lady in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical, “School of Rock.” The musical is based on the 2003 movie of the same name, originally starring Jack Black in the lead role of wannabe rock star Dewey Finn. The musical follows the story of Dewey as he poses to as a substitute teacher at an elite preparatory school to make extra money. When he discovers his straight-A students are talented musicians, he uses them to put together an electric guitar playing, drum banging rock band.
Morgan: How did you get involved in “School of Rock?”
Lexie: I was originally brought in to audition for the role of Ms. Sheinkopf. At my final callback, they had me perform some of the Rosalie sides with the idea that maybe I would cover it, and then I booked the role of Rosalie.
The role, vocally, has everything. It has this “Queen of the Night” section with the soprano. It also has this awesome number in Act II, “Where Did the Rock Go?”, that is an Andrew Lloyd Webber belt ballad, which is more in my wheelhouse. I’m more of a belter, so I’m lucky that “Where Did the Rock Go?” sits right at a place that’s very comfortable for me.
It was great when I came in for my audition because I played Rosalie the way I would play it, thinking it would just be a cover. Since I’ve been cast, the team has been awesome about letting me try new things with the character.
What’s great about our production is that we have a lot of ownership. Rob Colletti, who plays Dewey, gets to be his own version of the character — it’s not just a recreation of what you see on Broadway or in London. They really allowed us to drive into the characters, so while all the same songs of course are there, all the script is the same, there is something with our tour that I think is really special because we were all encouraged to make the role our own.
M: How long have you been a part of “School of Rock?”
L: I’ve been a part of the tour for six months.
M: What’s it like working with so many children on set? Were there any challenges or anything you weren’t expecting?
L: These kids are great. They’re the true rock stars because during the day, they have to go to school. We travel with tutors and they have school during the day, and then at night, they do the show. It was important to the team that these are kids that act like kids on stage, so they hired kids that not necessarily were theater kids. Some of them are absolutely theater kids, but some of them were musicians first, and then the team took it upon themselves to teach them how to act and sing. What you end up getting is really interesting kids who are still kids.
M: I’m glad you addressed that, because my next questions was going to be if these kids had to learn how to play these instruments for the role or if they came in with the ability.
L: Most of them came in as musicians. I know a few of them, once they did it a few times for the audition, spent more time with the instruments. But most of them came in as musicians first if it was required for their role.
M: “School of Rock” is a little bit more vulgar and has some curse words. Was this an issue at any point?
L: No, no. It’s all very tastefully done. It has that Jack-Black humor, but a majority of it goes over the heads of the kids that see the show. And a lot of these kids, you know, “Stick it to the man,” they get it. They understand the idea of the storytelling behind it.
M: What has been the most challenging part of playing Rosalie?
L: I work hard to make her a real character. She’s a woman running an elite preparatory school, and with that comes great responsibility. In Act I, she is a strict teacher, the one who’s making sure everyone is in line. Many times, when women are doing something like that, they can suddenly be classified as “mean.” I work hard to make her a complex character that lets you understand why she is that way. Yes, she is strict in Act I, and that’s because she takes her job seriously and she’s trying be taken seriously as a woman in this position at this elite school.
In Act II, I work hard to make sure the bar scene, when you do start to see the façade crack and you do get to see the fun of Rosalie, that she is fun. I guess the biggest challenge as a leading lady is wanting to have those complexities and to show women as real women and complex women depicted on stage. That’s something that’s important to me. I think it’s important that we see all characters, but especially women, as complex characters and not just one dimensional.
M: What is it like pairing the very straight-laced energy of Rosalie with the energy that is Dewey Finn?
L: It’s kind of great. The joke is written right there. If I maintain the strict energy up and down and the Deweys are bouncing all over the place, you can very quickly understand who these characters are. Rob Colletti is fantastic. He’s just hilarious on stage, and those kids love him on and off stage. You see a little bit of Jack Black in his performance, naturally, but he really makes it his own. It’s almost like you see Jack Black in the performance because that’s what you think you see, because that’s what you know, but he takes ownership of the role and it makes my job easy.
M: Earlier, you mentioned the high notes in “Queen of the Night.” Those are quite impressive.
L: It’s the whole range. But that’s good. If you think of vocalists, and lot of people don’t think of vocalists this way, they are athletes. This show is fantastic for me because it is the absolute top of my range and it is the absolute bottom of my range. That way, every day when I’m warming up or I’m singing the show, I’m cross training, if you will, in my voice.
This role feels great and it’s probably some of the best vocal shape I’ve been in in years because I’m not just using my belt voice or soprano voice. I’m using all of my voice for this role and I think that contributes to the transformation of Rosalie. During Act II, you see the façade cracking and you see who she really is. You also get to hear a different part of her voice that you haven’t heard, very literally with “Where Did the Rock Go?” I think it’s awesome how Andrew Lloyd Webber, as a tool, is using different parts of the voice to tell the story.
M: “School of Rock” has the unique task of combining show tunes and rock music. Was this difficult, or was it a smooth transition?
L: I think people are surprised because it depends on what people know of Andrew Lloyd Webber. If you think of Andrew Lloyd Webber in the realm of “Phantom of the Opera,” I think people are surprised to think he could have written “School of Rock.” But then if you think about Andrew Lloyd Webber’s older work, like “Jesus Christ Superstar,” this hones back to that, and it absolutely in his wheelhouse, so that transition was actually very smooth.
We do reference songs from the movie, but then there’s new original songs that are written for the musical that serve the story. He’s created something that, if you are a musical theater fan or if you know who Andrew Lloyd Webber is, you already know going into it that you’ll love it. If you’re somebody who’s bringing your kid to the theater and you might not necessarily be a musical theater person, you don’t realize it, but this music is already speaking to you. Literally what he’s created is a score that has something for everyone.
M: Is there a reason they changed the name of some of the kids and added characters from the original movie?
L: I don’t know, but I do know that our production really expanded upon the relationship between Dewey and the children. In the movie, it’s touched upon but it’s more a star vehicle for Jack Black. In the musical, it is much more about Dewey’s relationship with the kids and you get to see a little bit of the individual family life of these children with their parents. They also expanded upon Dewey’s relationship with the Rosalie character. So I’m not sure necessarily the reasoning, but in the musical, the kids’ characters are very fleshed out.
M: Because it is such an iconic movie, the musical has had to bring something new and authentic while keeping the old charm. Can you elaborate on that?
L: Absolutely. The movie is a jumping off point. A lot of the lines you hear from the movie and some of the songs make it to the stage, so if you are that person that is a “School of Rock” movie or Jack Black fan, you will absolutely recognize those lines and those songs. But then the team has taken the musical, and the biggest thing they’ve done is expand upon the relationship with Dewey and the kids. Rosalie too, but mostly Dewey and the kids. That’s really the big difference: you get to invest in the children’s story more.
M: Of all the roles you’ve had, which one has been your favorite, challenged you the most, or been the most memorable for you?
L: A couple years ago, I played Sandra Bloom in “Big Fish.” That was challenging in a wonderful way because not only had I returned home to Birmingham to work at the theater I grew up at, I was invited as a guest artist contract to perform, so that it very special to go back to Red Mountain Theatre Company. But what was challenging about it, in a great way, was that you see her at the age of 18 all the way through her late fifties.
To figure out the physicality of how to age the character and how to arc the character through physicality, voice and emotion was really exciting for me. I love the creative exploration of what I do. Ultimately what I love is being a storyteller, and that comes from getting to create these characters. That’s what I’ve done with the Rosalie character. I really do care about her overall arc and how she unfolds to the audience so they can have that journey every night, moment to moment. In “Where Did the Rock Go?” in Act II, if I do my job of being believable and unfolding these things and asking these questions, you as an audience member should be able to relate to something that I’m saying.
Many fans have reached out and said, “I love that song and I know what that feels like to look go back and say, ‘Oh what at what point did I lose my child-like enthusiasm.’” It’s looking back, and I think it’s a very relatable thing to say “Wow where did the time go? Life is moving so fast.” Having those questions is very relatable and to look back as an older person, hindsight is everything. When people tell me “Where Did the Rock Go?” hit them in a way that makes them question things, I feel like I’ve done my job as an actress.
M: Can you talk about Sharp Studios?
L: It’s mostly online, 90 percent of our customers are online, but my husband and I run an audition studio together, Sharp Studios. We have clients of all ages that reach out. We’ve made curriculums for some of them to train in acting and others are coming when they have auditions, so we help coach their audition sides. It’s great because I’m a teacher as well. I taught during the first semester at the university level and I’ve taught at several different studios around the country. It’s something I love so much and it’s our way of always practicing some of the acting basics.
M: Is there anything you want audiences to know or be aware of before they see the show?
L: When those kids are picking up their rock instruments, that is just them. There is no added orchestra playing. You can even see at the end of the show people from our band standing up at the end of the show and clapping along with the audience. I think it’s just so cool if you can know that going into it and realize that every time those kids pick up the electric guitar or the base that they’re playing with no backup tracks. At every show, you see people leaning into the orchestra because they can’t believe it. They make an announcement at the beginning of the show, but just to say it again, when you go into it and realize that, it just makes it that much more amazing.
M: Do you have any advice for young children interested in theater, musicians, or anyone interested being involved in productions at all?
L: Absolutely. If it’s something you think you want to do with your life, do it. But you have to do it with thick skin, enthusiasm and diligence. I’m all about going after what you want but you have to go after it 100 percent and know the competition ahead of time. You have to know what it’s really like. There are hundreds of auditions of no’s before there’s a yes. And that’s just part of it. Finding ways to stay creative while you’re not necessarily on a great job is important.
M: What has been the best part or the most rewarding part of this production?
L: I think the most rewarding part of this production is the people that I work with. This cast is an exceptional group of people as performers, but they’re also just very nice people and very hardworking. Maybe that’s cliché but honestly this cast, creative and production teams, management and everyone on and off stage, are top notch people. It’s been a rewarding experience and it makes coming to work such a joy. While you’re on the road and you’re away sometimes from your family, or your house and those things that provide comfort for you, that’s such a gift.
School of Rock will run at the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore from March 20, 2018, to March 25, 2018.
Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of maxpixel.com.
Morgan Politzer is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached a firstname.lastname@example.org.