Gotta love the internet. The Gary Trainor who is touring with “School of Rock” is not Meghan Trainor’s dad.
“I get that quite a bit,” he said with a laugh. “I have an IMDb (Internet Movie Database) page because of one independent film I did, but apparently someone added to it that I am Meghan Trainor’s father, and I can’t remove it.”
To be fair, “Gary” is the name of Meghan Trainor’s real-life father, he’s just not the 33-year-old actor from Northern Ireland who moved to London at age 18 for theatrical training.
The Gary Trainor who is coming to the Des Moines Civic Center from Tuesday (4/30) to May 5, played Dewey Finn in “School of Rock” in London’s West End. It’s the lead role originated by Jack Black in the 2003 film of the same name, and Trainor has been on the road with the Broadway tour as the Dewey alternate since the end of 2018.
Because the show demands so much of that character physically and vocally, Trainor plays Dewey three times a week, generally at the matinees and one evening performance. Otherwise, Merritt David Janes steps into the role.
“To get the full effect of the Jack Black film, you need to put yourself through the mill a little bit,” Trainor said by phone from a recent Miami tour stop. “Jack Black himself had the luxury of maybe two, three or four months to film the movie, and we have to show it live two and a half hours every night. It does affect the body. I think that’s why the system was set up for the lead and the alternate role.”
It’s ultimately the story of Dewey’s redemption, wrapped in the original high-energy rock music from the film, as well as 14 new songs from British hitmaker Andrew Lloyd Webber.
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“Dewey is a bit of a bum, really,” Trainor said. “He wants to be a rock ’n’ roller, and that’s all he’s ever wanted. Unfortunately, it’s just not going his way.”
Down on his luck and in dire need of cash, Dewey jumps at the chance to pose as his roommate, and snag an “easy gig” as a substitute teacher at a prestigious elementary school. He’s in it for the cash, but ends up with a much bigger reward than money can buy.
“He falls in love with these kids that are just amazing instrumentalists, but are very reserved,” Trainor said. “They’re very disciplined to within an inch of their lives, and he is the complete opposite. A movable force meets an unstoppable force, and the two collide. He sees an opportunity to create a band with these kids and finally win the Battle of the Bands. This is his dream, to win Battle of the Bands.”
Whether they win or not (no spoilers here) the kids and Dewey make each other better.
“It shows the transformative power of music,” Trainor said.
Technically, Dewey is the starring role, but Trainor and Janes aren’t the only stars onstage. The kids’ talent is off the charts.
Playing off them is “intimidating,” Trainor said. “I’ve been playing guitar since I was 15, and I reached about 18 and never progressed further, skill-set wise. I’m pretty good as a rhythm guitarist, but when it comes to lead guitar, I’m a bit of a geriatric in my fingers. Stand beside Mystic Inscho, our guitarist, Zack. I think he’s 11, maybe 12, and oh, he’s thrashing on the thing and is just incredible.”
The cast includes 12 kids onstage and four backstage who can swing into various roles. “They’re all so talented,” Trainor said.
WHAT: “School of Rock”
WHERE: Des Moines Civic Center, 221 Walnut St., Des Moines
WHEN: Tuesday (4/30) to May 5; 7:30 p.m. April 30 to May 3; 2 and 7:30 p.m. May 4; 1 and 6:30 p.m. May 5
RUN TIME: 135 min.
TICKETS: $40 to $154, Civic Center Box Office, (515) 246-2300 or desmoinesperformingarts.org/events/1819-school-of-rock/
SHOW’S WEBSITE: ustour.schoolofrockthemusical.com