Rock enrolled: Local kids shred in ‘School of Rock’

Rock enrolled: Local kids shred in ‘School of Rock’
Photo by Trey Pentecost

Rock, rock, rock ’n’ roll elementary, middle, and high school!

An all-kid cast will stage a head-banging production of “School of Rock” at the Fort Hamilton Army Base Theater this weekend, opening on Aug. 17. The director of the Narrows Community Theater show said that the musical’s message — about being yourself and following your passions — offers a great lesson for the cast of nearly 50 stage-loving kids, who range in age from 8 to 17.

“It’s all about finding yourself,” said Jacob W. Patorti. “The whole essence of this is ‘stick it to the man,’ and what does that mean? That means don’t be scared of anything or anyone, find yourself and be loud and be proud.”

The rock musical is based on the 2003 film starring Jack Black as Dewey Finn, a substitute teacher and wannabe rocker who turns a class of private school students into a rock band. Patorti knew he had found his lead when he saw how 13-year-old Reese Bannin comes to life when she strums the chords of her electric guitar.

“I wasn’t imagining a woman playing the role, but Reese was spectacular — she clearly loves and finds the most comfort in her teenage life when she’s holding her electric guitar,” he said. “She’s exactly what Dewey Finn needs to be, which is somebody that is passionate about music and rebellious.”

Bannin, a rising eighth grader, said she transforms herself into the show’s 30-year-old male teacher by deepening her voice and adjusting her on-stage mannerisms — though she sometimes slips into more feminine habits, she said.

“Sometimes I go to sit down, and they’re like, ‘Don’t cross your legs,’ ” said Bannin, who lives in Bensonhurst.

She relishes the challenge of playing Finn because he represents the rebellion at the heart of the show, a message that drew her to audition.

“ ‘School of Rock’ always stood out to me because it was more rebellious,” she said.

Bannin is both an actor and a musician: she plays electric guitar in the show, and also plays the bass, piano, and drums off stage. Most of the cast also plays music. They play their own instruments during the show, said Partorti, and their youthful energy kept them rocking in rehearsals all summer long.

“They all want to be there — there’s that level of excitement,” he said.

“School of Rock” at Fort Hamilton Army Base Theater (403 General Lee Ave., enter at 101st Street and Fort Hamilton Parkway in Bay Ridge, www.nctheaterny.com). Aug. 17–19 and 24–26, Fri–Sat at 8 pm; Sun at 2 pm. $25 ($20 seniors, $15 students). Bring ID to enter base.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Rocking out: Reese Bannin, 13, plays the hard-rockin’ protagonist of “School of Rock,” 30-year-old loafer Dewey Finn.
Photo by Trey Pentecost