MLT brings 'School of Rock' to the stage

·3 min read

Aug. 4—Imagine a rock-singing music teacher portraying a rock-singing music teacher.

That's what Penny McGill encountered when Micheal Rappe was cast in Muskogee Little Theatre's upcoming musical "School of Rock," which runs this weekend and next.

Rappe teaches music at Tony Goetz Elementary and performs with local bands. He portrays Dewey Finn, a rock singer who gets a substitute teaching gig at a prestigious prep school.

McGill said such casting was serendipitous.

"I don't even think we realized it until after we cast it," she said. "We were looking at the characteristics more closely. And I thought this is almost a parallel of Micheal Rappe's life. But that was never the intention. That was just a happy happenstance."

She said the happy happenstance helped the production.

"A lot of the process we've been going through has mirrored what goes on not only with Micheal's classroom and teaching, and his pursuit of music, but with mine, also," she said. "It was good that he could share his personal experiences with these young people in the show."

Rappe said he definitely taps into his teaching experience for the show. He also taps into the original 2003 movie, which starred Jack Black.

"It was definitely a film that influenced me into being a music teacher," Rappe said. "Jack Black's energy from the movie was inspiring. It gives me the freedom and the realization of what can I do that's over the top, that really engages students and makes learning fun and makes learning memorable."

He said he watched the movie often over the years.

"I'm just a fan of Jack Black and the energy," he said. "This is kind of a chance to give back to someone who has given me so much. Now, I'm kind of the adult at the theater and I want to instill in them and foster in them a love of acting and music, a love of life."

McGill said "School of Rock" found a place in her heart.

"I'm a fine arts teacher, and it's a show about these kids who are exposed to the fine arts, in this case, it's music," McGill said. "The character, Dewey, dreams of being a rock 'n' roll star, so he kinds of expands the horizon of some of the kids by exposing them to music."

Four young cast members, who play students, actually learned to play the instruments for the show.

Noah Strickland, who plays Freddie the drummer, said he already knew how to play the drums.

Elizabeth Van Voast, who plays Katie the bassist, said she knew how to play piano, trombone, baritone horn and "kind of sort of the drums."

She said Rappe and assistant music director Tyler Murray taught her how to play bass.

Jawuan McGill, who plays keyboardist Lawrence said he's known how to play keyboard since he was 5.

Kaden Burrup, who plays Zach, plays electric guitar in the show. He said he knew how to play acoustic guitar, but electric guitar has a "gnarlier sound."

"You have bends, where you have to bend the string up high, you don't do that on an acoustic," he said. "I really had to learn to play solos."