Rocking Out with Sudbrink Academy
By Stephanie Harte
Photo Credit: Ivy Broder on bass as Katie, Cian Radcliffe on guitar as Zack, Thomas Madrzak on guitar as Dewey, Zander Tomes on drums as Freddy, and Ryan Vanselow on keys as Lawrence. Photo courtesy of Sudbrink Academy.
When Jes Sudbrink saw the look of pure joy on her husband’s face after seeing School of Rock The Musical on Broadway last summer, she knew it had to be the next show at Sudbrink Academy.
“That’s what sold it for me,” Jes explains. “I was like ok he loves it.”
Husband and wife Jacob and Jes Sudbrink started Sudbrink Academy three years ago to provide first class performing arts education and opportunities to children in the community. In addition to classes and workshops hosted at their studio in Downtown Waukesha, they put on a full-scale production each summer.
School of Rock, running July 27 through Aug. 4 at Pewaukee High School, will feature 47 talented youngsters and a professional live pit band comprised of Anne Van Deusen and J.J. Anshus on keyboard; Jay Kummer, Paul Lehner, and Kylie Zajdel on guitar; Jon Blessing on bass and Jim Van Deusen on drums. Jacob serves as conductor of the pit band and director of the production, while Jes serves as choreographer.
In addition to the pit band, five of the principal characters will also be playing instruments live on stage. “It’s going to be obnoxiously loud, which is exciting,” Jacob says.
Ivy Broder as Katie. Photo courtesy of Sudbrink Academy.
Jes explains that an initial concern they had with the production was finding young talent with the ability to play rock instruments at a proficient level.
“We just trusted that hopefully people would come out of the woodwork, and they did,” Jes says. “Two of our lead characters are actually being played by two musicians who have never done a show before.”
Adapted from the popular film starring Jack Black, School of Rock The Musical follows Dewey Finn (Thomas Madrzak), an enthusiastic guitarist, who poses as a substitute teacher after getting thrown out of his bar band. Dewey introduces the students at the elite elementary school to his rock idols and helps them turn into a guitar-shredding group worthy of Battle of the Bands.
In their search for Dewey, Jes and Jacob found 18-year-old Thomas Madrzak. They immediately saw that he had the energy needed to drive the show, as well as the guitar playing ability. Madrzak previously performed with Mainstreet Song and Dance Troup for five years and has performed in numerous productions including Aladdin Jr. and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Thirteen-year-olds Ivy Broder and Ryan Vanselow both have acting experience and perfected their playing to be in the show. Vanselow will be playing the keyboard as Lawrence and Broder will play bass as Katie.
"I already play ukulele and guitar so four weeks before auditions I taught myself to play the bass guitar," says Broder. "It was a challenge to learn a new instrument at first but it was also very fun. I worked on my bass a lot at home while I did singing and choreography at the studio."
"Jacob and Jess are fantastic directors," she adds. "They strive to make everyone’s experience special and embrace each individual's talent."
On the other hand, this will be the first time on stage for 14-year-old Cian Radcliffe and 16-year-old Zander Tomes, the two other leads playing instruments. Radcliffe will be playing guitar in the role of Zack, while Tomes will play drums in the role of Freddy.
Zander Tomes as Freddy. Photo courtesy of Sudbrink Academy.
Both Radcliffe and Tomes’ ability to improvise solo during auditions is what blew the Sudbrinks away.
“Part of the issue we were seeing with people coming into audition was that they could only read what was on the page and didn’t know how to just improvise,” Jes shares. “It’s been fun to see them get more comfortable with being on stage too. They are becoming actors now.”
Jes adds that she felt Radcliffe and Tomes were initially intimidated by how comfortable the other kids were singing, acting, and dancing in front of people, which they didn’t have experience with yet.
“The first time they played for everyone was when it started to even out because all the actors were just in awe of what they could do,” Jes says. “That’s when everyone started to meet in the middle and become one cast. “
School of Rock The Musical, presented by Sudbrink Academy, runs July 27 – 29 and Aug. 2 – 4 at Pewaukee High School. For tickets visit sudbrinkacademy.com.