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Theater preview: The kids wanna rock at the Fox Theatre

‘School of Rock’ national tour comes to the Atlanta venue

When you think of Andrew Lloyd Webber, the obvious links are “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Jesus Christ Superstar” and, for better or worse, “Cats.”

A musical based on a 2003 movie that showcased the manic energy of Jack Black and focuses on a failed rock star who pretends to be a substitute teacher and winds up forming a band with fifth-graders isn’t a natural association for the knighted (and now EGOT-earning) theater composer.

But indeed, Lloyd Webber penned the music for “School of Rock,” while Glenn Slater (“The Little Mermaid,” “Sister Act”) wrote the lyrics and Julian Fellowes (“Gosford Park,” “Downton Abbey”), the book. The show opened on Broadway in December 2015 and just announced a closing date of Jan. 20, following 1,307 regular performances and a quartet of Tony Awards nominations.

Earlier this year, the charming Lloyd Webber said at a red carpet Grammy event that the musical, which is playing its national tour debut at the Fox Theatre through Sunday, is about “the empowering force of music — and kids. (They) can really rock out. I think they’ll probably grow up to be musicians,” he commented of those in the Broadway cast.

The same might be said of the youngsters taking the stage on tour; all are ages 9-13 with the ability to sing, dance, act and play an instrument.

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Two members of the cast — Bella Fraker, 12, a swing player and understudy for the roles of “Summer,” “Marcy,” “Katie” and “Shonelle,” and Jacob Moran, 10, who plays “James” and is the understudy for “Freddy” — call Atlanta home.

The pair answered questions via email about their involvement in “School of Rock,” their favorite types of music and their acting and musical aspirations.

Here are the dossiers on Fraker and Moran, who hail from Milton and Buckhead, respectively.

Bella Fraker, from Milton, is part of the "School of Rock" national tour.

Full name: Bella Grace Fraker

What instrument(s) do you play?

I play bass guitar, piano, ukulele and a little drums.

What musical training did you have before joining “School of Rock”?

I took piano lessons and bass guitar lessons. My dad and I would play around on the drums. I also took dance and voice lessons.

What professional acting did you do before “School of Rock”?

My first theater job was in “A Christmas Carol” at the Alliance Theatre when I was 6. I did that for three seasons. Then I booked the “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” national tour. I have also filmed a movie and many commercials.

What type of music/artists do you like to listen to for inspiration and why?

I listen to all kinds of music. I love Broadway show tunes, classic rock, hard rock, as well as Taylor Swift!

What’s been the best part about being on tour?

The best part of the tour is seeing the country! There are lots of places I would never get to see if it wasn’t for the tour. A true blessing!

What are your acting/musical aspirations beyond “School of Rock”?

I love performing! So as long as I am singing, dancing or acting, I am happy.

Jacob Moran, of Buckhead, plays "James" in the national tour of "School of Rock."

Full name: Jacob Moran

What instrument(s) do you play?

Drums and guitar.

What musical training did you have before joining “School of Rock”?

I have been playing the drums since I was 3. My dad is a drummer and my mom loves to sing. I have been taking voice lessons with Jason Meeks at the Orbit Arts Academy (in Sandy Springs) for two years and Nico Lembo is my drum teacher for the past three years.

What professional acting did you do before “School of Rock”?

I started training when I was about 6 at the Alliance Theatre summer program. When I was 9, my best friend Noah introduced me to the Orbit Arts Academy, where I really started taking my training seriously. I have done commercials and print modeling, and “The School of Rock” is my first professional theater production.

What type of music/artists do you like to listen to for inspiration and why?

I like to listen to both pop and Broadway music. I love Michael Jackson and am inspired from his beats and his original rhythms. My dad played the drums in “Riverdance” on Broadway, and I used to watch the movie of the production and loved the music, which I believed inspired me even before I knew it did.

What is your favorite part of the show?

The “Stick It to the Man — Finale.” It involves the audience and together we feel like we are at a rock concert. I also love “If Only You Would Listen”; the song gives such a powerful message that kids need to be heard.

What will be the best part about performing in your hometown and at the Fox?

I have grown up going to the Fox. To think I will be performing on that stage is a dream come true. My friends and teachers mean so much to me, and I can’t wait for them to see the show.


THEATER PREVIEW

“School of Rock”

7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday. $41-$116. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta. 1-855-285-8499, foxtheatre.org.

About the Author

Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer Melissa Ruggieri covers the Atlanta Music Scene and entertainment news for print and online.

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