Meet Lexie Dorsett Sharp, the uptight principal in "School of Rock"
When "School of Rock" – the musical based on the movie starring Jack Black – comes to the Marcus Center next week, Lexie Dorsett Sharp will be there, front and center. (Well, except when she's stage right. Or left. Or backstage. You get the idea, though.)
Sharp, who has toured with numerous other musicals including "Young Frankenstein," "The Addams Family" and "Elf," plays the role of Rosalie Mullins, the uptight school principal who originally doesn't see the value of music education but has a change of heart over time.
"In the second act, you see Rosalie loosen up," says Sharp. "She still has the ambition, but becomes more gentle and casual. I love this role – I definitely have some similarities to Rosalie, but also a lot of differences."
A lack of appreciation for music education is not something Sharp shares with Rosalie. Sharp grew up in Alabama and her mother, now retired, was a music teacher for many years and so she regularly witnessed the positive impact music made on kids' lives.
"School of Rock" features music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and tells the story of Dewey Finn, a gig-less rock singer and guitarist who pretends to be a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school. Blown away by the musical talent of his students, Dewey forms a band of fifth graders in an attempt to win a Battle of the Bands contest.
"School of Rock" plays at Uihlein Hall at the Marcus Center from Tuesday, Nov. 21 through Sunday, Nov. 26. Tickets are available here.
OnMilwaukee chatted with Sharp earlier this week about the show, Joan Cusack, the importance of music education and why she could never play the part of "Annie."
OnMilwaukee: How long have you been touring with "School of Rock?"
Lexie Dorsett Sharp: I started about 2 1/2 months ago. This is the first national tour and so all of the actors joined at the same time. There are two company members on the tour who came from Broadway.
Can you share a quick timeline of your life? Where did you grow up? Go to college? Etc.?
I grew up in Birmingham, Ala. There's a big art scene there. I went to college at the University of Cincinnati – College Conservatory of Music. After I gradated I moved to New York and did a few tours, including "The Addams Family" which had an international run.
Have you ever been to Milwaukee before?
No, I've never played Milwaukee, but I'm really excited about it. My friends who have performed there told me there are some really great bars and breweries, which I hope to have the chance to check out. They also told me about the Riverwalk near the theater, which sounds really nice.
How are you like Rosalie?
We definitely share some similarities. I can relate to being a stickler to the rules – I'm a little Type A in that way. She and I are both very career-oriented and work hard to make things happen in our careers. But overall I would say I'm more laid back in real life than Rosalie.
What is your favorite song in the show?
In Act Two I get to sing "Where did the rock go?" and it's such a big moment for me. I always dreamed of singing one of Andrew Lloyd Webber's power ballads and now I am. Sometimes I still can't believe it.
Is your version of Rosalie similar to Joan Cusack's character in the movie "School of Rock?"
I think Joan Cusack is a genius and I was very familiar with her character before I got the part. I wanted my version to be influenced by her so it would be somewhat recognizable to fans of the film, but I also was very interested in making it my own.
Is the musical a lot like the film?
Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote a musical score for the musical, but yes, there are many similarities between the musical and the film. There are several lines in the musical that are verbatim from the film. My character is more fleshed out in the musical because in the film, it focuses on Jack Black doing what Jack Black does so well. In the musical, my relationship with Dewey, and Dewey's relationship to the kids, goes deeper. People who love the film are going to love this musical.
How many kids are in the show?
There are 16 kids between the ages of 9 and 12 in the show. Twelve perform each night. Some of the kids are multi-instrumentalists and can play different roles as needed. They are incredibly talented and really amazing to work with. I think they are getting a lot from being in this show, too: confidence, collaboration, learning to listen to others.
I think it's important for kids to see other kids playing instruments and rocking out. It's inspiring. After a show in Chicago a mother told me that after seeing the show her daughter said she was going to learn how to play the electric guitar. She was 5.
Why is this show still relevant or even more relevant then ever?
Unfortunately in a lot of school systems in America we're seeing the defunding of arts programs. The arts positively impact children in so many ways. They tap into a different part of the brain. I grew up seeing this firsthand because my mom is a retired music teacher and this is how I realized I wanted to be a performer someday: by seeing other kids perform.
Was there one performance or musical that made you realize you wanted to do this for a living some day?
The first time I saw "Aida" I knew it was what I wanted to do. I also was very moved by "Evita." And I met my husband while doing "The Addams Family" so that one is very near and dear to my heart as well.
Did you ever want to be "Annie" when you were a kid?
My mom wanted to take me to an audition, but there were height restrictions for the part. I am almost 6 feet tall today and was a very tall kid as well so I would have been a good foot taller than the other orphans. That just wouldn't have worked.
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