The Energetic School of Rock Is Now In Session

Philadelphia Native Stars in Philadelphia Tour of School of Rock Through April 1 at the Academy of MusicWhen a cast of uber-talented children play their own instruments, act, dance and belt out songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber, you know that you have arrived.

This is the premise of School of Rock –The Musical, now playing on tour at the Kimmel Center’s Academy of Music through Sunday, April 1.

The show, which opened to rave reviews in December 2015, was nominated for four 2016 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Score, Best Book and Best Leading Actor in a Musical. The show also won the 2017 Oliver Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music.

Based on the 2003 film of the same name starring Jack Black, School of Rock—The Musical tells the story of wannabe rock star Dewey Finn, who is down on his luck. He’s just been kicked out of his own band and his landlord is threatening eviction, unless he coughs up his overdue rent.

Desperate for money, he poses as a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school. When he discovers his students’ musical talents, he enlists his fifth-graders to form a rock group and conquer the Battle of the Bands. This is a way for Dewey to get revenge and land his proper shot at rock stardom.

The show has great spirit and it is difficult not to clap along and leave the theater dancing in the aisles. From the first moment these elementary school age performers begin to play their instruments, it is pure magic.

Bursting with energy and heart, School of Rock is a celebration of following your dreams and, of course, sticking it to the man!

Now starring in the Broadway tour is 27-year-old Liam Fennecken, who was born and raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia.

A member of the ensemble and Dewey’s understudy with the show, he graduated from Archbishop Wood High School in 2009, and Penn State University, in 2013.What do you love about this show, School of Rock?

Liam Fennecken:  Every time I’ve had the opportunity to see it and stop back stage and watch what the kids are doing, it hits me. I am watching these 9 to 13-year-olds on stage, shredding your face off.  It really hits you. It’s impossible not to be engrossed. The audience may start out quiet, but as soon they hear the rousing song, You’re In the Band, they start going nuts. Its super exciting

Does it matter where you are on the tour schedule?

LF: No, it doesn’t. When you go town-to-town audiences respond to various aspects of the show, but as soon as they start playing the instruments, we are all on the same page. It doesn’t matter where you are from or where your background is.

Do you have friends coming to the Academy of Music to see you this week?

LF: Yes. I am super excited for them to see the show, but also just to see all of them again. Being on the road I don’t get to see family and friends as often as I would like, so having this time in Philly with them, is something I am looking forward to.

What are you hoping for your future?

LF: I have been on tour on and off for five years, and I love doing it.  For me it’s about going where the work is. This is an incredible opportunity, working with the original Broadway teams and production teams, so it’s all the same umbrella, but in a different place. Eventually, I’d like an apartment and not be living out of two suitcases. But I am having fun with a show that definitely turns into a rock concert at the end.Anything else you can say about this?

LF: Sure, I’d like to do a Broadway show one day, obviously that’s the pinnacle; that’s the goal. I would love to make my footing in New York and settle down there. But, my ultimate dream is to have my own nature show in order to combine all of the things that I love – something like Jeff Corbin, but funnier.

What advice do you have for young aspiring actors who want to follow in your footsteps?

LF: I would say don’t forget about your hobbies. When I got into the school of theater I was concentrating on acting and singing and I stopped playing musical instruments and gave up skateboarding and rollerblading. So, what happens? Every show that I’ve been in I have had to play the guitar, and in Sponge Bob on Broadway four of the cast members have to skateboard.  So, you never know when the little things are the reason that you get a part in a show over anyone else. Having those things in your pocket can really help.

Such as?

LF:  I can play the guitar and banjo now so I got the part in Once. The little things that you don’t expect to come back, some-how they always do.

How do you chill out on the road?

LF: Depending where we are, I like to walk around a zoo or aquarium in every city or town that we are in. I usually go alone, and it’s a nice way to unwind and relax. As well as connect with myself.

What is the best part and most challenging part of being on tour?

LF:  The best part is free travel. I am able to go places and find little gems in every city and see what the world is like outside of New York and Philadelphia. The worst part is not having a solid home base. I’ve been living out of suitcases for a long time, so it’s nice to decorate and make a place of my own. I know that I will get there eventually.

What are you enjoying about your friends on tour?

LF: It is kind of impossible not to be a family.  We work with one another, travel, celebrate holidays and birthdays together. Since we go through all of this together we are super close.

Why do you recommend this show?LF:  For me, whenever I get to see its’s all about feeling good and following your dreams. For kids it’s great because they get to see them coming into their own. For adults you get to see an overview, I used to be like that, so maybe, I should let my kid do what they want to do. I love the party that it turns into at the end; it’s impossible not to leave the theater excited and juiced up.

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