Off Script: Alex Brightman Needs Pineapples and 'Family Guy' to Keep Up With 'School of Rock' Kids

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Alex Brightman

"I lose at least a pound a day," the Tony nominee tells THR. Offstage, "I have seconds, not minutes. I’m drinking small sips of water, toweling off and changing. Trying to breathe."

Eight times a week, Alex Brightman leaves the stage of School of Rock – The Musical a little bit lighter. “I lose at least a pound a day,” the Tony nominee, who stars in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Julian Fellowes’ musical adaptation of the hit 2003 film, tells The Hollywood Reporter. “The show is so physical, I’m running around the entire time. But doing that every night with these super talented kids is so much fun. It’s worth it.”

THR’s critic agrees, as Brightman’s performance “genuflects to Jack Black in the movie while putting his own anarchic stamp on the role of Dewey Finn” and inclusively shares the spotlight with the production’s cast of children who play their own instruments onstage.  “With his indefatigable comic energy and explosive physicality, Brightman makes a winning scoutmaster. … The actor is bracingly in the moment at all times, engaging with the kids in ways that indicate genuine mutual affection.”

Brightman, 29, goes Off Script to explain why he eats pineapples, which rock star he channels on Broadway and whose fan emails have been especially meaningful.

What do you admire most about your character?

He’s obnoxiously naïve. And he’s never half-measured in emotion: he gets insanely upset and joyous. He’s different than in the movie — we made him more childish, more older brother than parental figure.

What’s your toughest scene?

The first number of the show, “When I Climb to the Top of Mount Rock,” is mine and all mine, there’s no help, and it sits so high in my voice. I’m running across the stage the entire time. Andrew Lloyd Webber said, “I’ve given you an 11 o’clock number at 7 p.m.” My first thought after that song is “Oh my god, there’s so much show left.”

Best part about working with so many kids?

Birthday parties! Also, they’re professionals, just younger, and they keep me in line. You go to work and make fun of kids and they make fun of you back. It’s joy.


Alex Brightman as Dewey Finn in 'School of Rock - The Musical.' Photo credit: Matthew Murphy

What’s your favorite song?

My new favorite is “Teacher’s Pet” at the end, because I was squandering an opportunity to be a crazy rock star with a guitar. I was just playing the guitar and singing and thought, “I could do so much more here.” It’s gotten a lot more physical and Pete Townshend from The Who. When I’m not singing, I’m bouncing around and kicking.

What new habit have you adopted for this role?

I probably lip-trill in public more than I should.

What have you given up?

Alcohol. Really spicy food, which I love.

What time do you wake up on a show day?

Around 7 every morning, no matter what. I’m a morning person. I throw on raggedy clothes, get coffee and watch a show on Hulu that I missed the night before. I’ll write a little bit: right now, I’m working on some stand-up comedy, a pilot with a friend, and two musicals with Drew Gasparini.

Do you eat dinner before or after a performance?

Before, but if I eat after 4 p.m., there’s a very strong chance I’ll throw up. I’ll also eat pineapple because it has natural anti-inflammatory enzymes for your vocal cords. I don’t even know if that’s a hundred percent true, but it’s worked so far, so even if it’s a placebo effect, I’m down with it.

What’s something special in your dressing room?

An opening-night gift from my girlfriend. She commissioned an incredible art piece: a guitar with hundreds of little intricate drawings inside that are related to rock ‘n’ roll and the show. I keep finding things in it every time I look at it.

Any pre-show rituals?

I listen to stand-up comedy on Pandora, because I like hearing different comedians’ cadences and laughter. Hearing other people be funny helps me be funny.

What do you do when you’re not onstage during the show?

I have seconds, not minutes. I’m drinking small sips of water, toweling off and changing. Trying to breathe.


Alex Brightman as Dewey Finn in 'School of Rock - The Musical.' Photo credit: Matthew Murphy

Do you have trouble sleeping afterward?

Yes. It’s like doing a rock concert. I take a melatonin and watch something I’ve seen before, like Family Guy or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and drift off at some point. I don’t eat after the show, but my breakfasts have gotten enormous.

What do you do on your day off?

I try to stay home and rest, but I’m bored by noon. So I’ll walk around the city – I’ve been here 11 years and I still love doing that. And I’ll get Mexican food. I just found a new place called Playa Bettys with killer tacos and guacamole you make yourself, and what looks like a great drink menu.

Best stage door reaction so far?

Some people email me, and then come to the stage door and introduce themselves. There was one person, fourteen or fifteen years old, who was getting bullied in school for doing theater. I told them to work hard enough so you don’t pay attention to those people and they’ll eventually fall away. They came to the stage door and said, “That was life-changing.”

Favorite backstage guest?

Jack Black. He pointed to his cheek and said, “Do you know what this is? On this cheek laid a man-tear, and it’s because of you.” He brought Paul Rudd, one of my favorite actors. It was a dream come true.

 

This guy came to our show today. And yes...he is cooler than you even think he is. #JackBlack #2Deweys

A photo posted by Alex Brightman (@abrightmonster) on

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