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British actors electrify Korean stage in ‘School of Rock’

Joseph Sharpe, second from right, performs during the 'Finale' of the musical 'School of Rock' at the Seoul Arts Center. Sharpe plays Mason, technician of the School of Rock band. Courtesy of S&CO

In the heart of Seoul, the electrifying beats of “School of Rock” resonate through the Seoul Arts Center, captivating audiences with a story of talent, transformation and the universal language of music.Reuben Browne and Joseph Sharpe contribute their talents to this international production, bringing the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber to life. It’s a tale of rocker Dewey Finn’s accidental venture into teaching, leading to an unforgettable journey with a group of prep school students, each bursting with musical talent.At 24, Belfast native Browne is living a high point in his life as the alternate Dewey in “School of Rock” in Korea, marking his professional debut. Mainly featured in matinee shows, Browne relishes the interaction with both the young and adult cast members and the enthusiastic Korean audiences.From juggling multiple jobs, including being a barista and teaching kids musical theater, to shining on the Korean stage, Browne’s journey to becoming Dewey is nothing short of a dream come true.The opportunity to audition for “School of Rock” came as a delightful surprise, especially as it is a musical close to his heart thanks to its being his sister’s favorite film.”I did the first self-tape and I remember thinking I have a good feeling about this,” Browne said during an interview with The Korea Times at the theater, Feb. 1.Landing the role filled him with joy, viewing it as a fantastic opportunity to kickstart his career in a show he deeply admires.Sharpe, playing the role of Mason, the School of Rock band’s technician, boasts an impressive resume despite being just half as old as Browne.His early fascination with the stage was fueled by family outings to plays and a keen interest in dance, leading him to the Royal Ballet School’s associate program in London at 7.”I’ve always been drawn to theater and dance,” he said.

When an opportunity to audition for West End productions of “Les Miserables” and “Mary Poppins” arose, he secured the role of Michael Banks in “Mary Poppins,” before moving on to play Bruce Bogtrotter in “Matilda.”Despite suggestions to take a break after “Matilda,” Sharpe’s passion for the stage kept him searching for the next opportunity, leading him to “School of Rock.””I did a lot of auditions and when we saw an advertisement looking for kids for ‘School of Rock,’ I said, ‘That’d be cool,'” the boy recalled, ready to tackle the challenges of performing internationally. Browne’s interpretation of Dewey in brings a nuanced and dynamic evolution to the character’s relationship with his students.Dewey is depicted as indifferent and self-serving, with a singular focus on winning the Battle of the Bands to pay off his debts, showing little interest in the children beyond their utility for his plan.”I don’t care what any of your names are. I want to get in here, get my money, get out,” Browne explained Dewey’s initial stance toward the kids.As the story progresses, Browne finds joy in the subtleties of Dewey’s changing dynamics with the students, especially in the small, onstage interactions that forge a real bond. Browne noted how Dewey begins to value the individual aspirations and talents of his students, encouraging them to embrace their unique identities.

“For example when [the students are asked to] talk about their influences, they’ve got Taylor Swift, BTS and Barbra Streisand. There’s a way of interpretative that ‘I know you love Barbara Streisand, but no, she is not a rock star,’” he said. “Embracing everyone’s personal passions is how [Dewey] brings everybody together.”Browne expressed awe at the remarkable talent of the child actors.”My favorite moment by far is ‘You’re in the Band,’ when everything starts coming together,” he said, explaining how his character assigns roles to each band member.“Every single night, I got goosebumps stand up, because you’re just seeing everything forming together. You’re seeing these kids and their talent just like exploding onstage. I hope that the audience feels absolutely the same every night.” Sharpe portrays Mason, the band’s tech guru, deftly managing lighting and effects with his laptop.While roles like Mason’s might seem to linger in the shadow of the main band members — Zack on guitar, Katie on bass, Lawrence on keyboard and Freddy on drums — Sharpe, alongside other crew characters such as stylist Billy, security guard Mason, roadie Sophie and manager Summer, proves integral to the ensemble, contributing significantly both on and offstage.”I think the whole point of the show is that these kids are so good at what they do, just incredible. Watching them every night is so great,” Sharpe said.

Despite enjoying playing the saxophone and clarinet, Sharpe finds contentment in his acting role, humorously noting, “I enjoy the clarinet, but that would add too much pressure.”His favorite musical number, “Teacher’s Pet,” showcases the ensemble’s cohesion, with Sharpe and others supporting from the sidelines.”I really enjoy ‘Teacher’s Pet.’ You have all the band kids playing it and then you’ve got the backup singers. And there’s us Billy, Mason and Summer in the wings cheering them. It’s just really great because we’re always having moments on stage, not just in character but also us connecting with the audience,” the young actor said.He highlighted the unity among the cast, emphasizing the importance of every member’s contribution to the show’s dynamic.“I think it’s really important that all of the kids are like a group. In the moment when Dewey’s saying ‘No rock star ever won anything’ [after the competition], we’re all in a circle and everyone has an equal place in that circle,” Sharpe said.Regardless of the size of their role, each carries their own narrative within the show.“While Zack and Freddy may have more lines or they do more, I think everyone has their own story. So in the scene ‘If Only You Would Listen,’ there are four, Billy, Freddy, Zack and Tomika, but we were always told to imagine that you’ve just had that same scene with your parents. That’s the energy that you bring into the scene.”

Before arriving in Korea, Browne had heard that Korean audiences might be quiet and that some humor could be lost in translation. However, he found the reality to be quite different.”All the jokes are landing. It’s great. The Korean audience is also very supportive to be in front of,” he said. “Obviously it is my professional debut and I was nervous the first time I went out but the audience was just so so engaged with what was going on and so supportive of everybody.”The unique experience of allowing photography during the final curtain call left a lasting impression on the actors.”You actually feel like a rock star. Everyone’s recording and seeing flashlights popping up from balcony is just amazing,” Browne said, noting how his social media has been flooded with photos and videos from the show, a new and exhilarating experience for him.Sharpe, who also loves to do rock poses and jump around during the curtain call, holds a deep appreciation for the show’s ability to motivate young audiences.”Walking out of the stage door every day and seeing all of the kids is so nice,” he said.Whether it’s aspiring musicians identifying with Zack or Freddy or tech enthusiasts seeing a role model in Mason, Sharpe recognizes show’s broad appeal.”There’s so many different roles in the show that the kids play, and like anyone can look up to one of them,” the boy said.”School of Rock” is staged at Seoul Arts Center’s Opera Theater until March 24, before moving to the 온라인카지노 Dream Theatre in Busan from April 2-14.

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