"It's got the same high-energy spirit and fans will recognise a lot of the lines and plot points," notes Associate Director Chris Keys. "But we go more in-depth into the backstories of the children. You see why they need Dewey Finn in their lives and how it changes them as much as it changes him."
"One of the key themes of the show is how much connecting with music and the arts can empower us and can give us the release that sometimes we're missing," Chris says. "The joy that comes from music – you see it on stage and you feel it as an audience member."
Assembling the young cast for the UK and Ireland tour was a lengthy process. Because of COVID restrictions, they were asked to send in video footage, followed by Zoom auditions. When restrictions were lifted there were in-person sessions.
Chris says: "You have to look a bit outside the box for this show. It's not your usual stage school kids. Once you've seen they can play the instruments you have to nurture the other aspects that are required – the singing, the acting and the movement. It throws up all sorts of challenges but at the same time it's so rewarding when you see the children make such huge strides from the first day of rehearsals to opening in the show."
"He's so playful, so childlike and so driven. Playing him is incredibly freeing. Because of the benchmark that Jack Black set, whatever you do – no matter how silly it is – still fits in with the character."
Jake isn't worried about being in Jack's shadow. "Obviously he's incredible in it but I haven't rewatched the film since getting the job. You have to put a little bit of him in there, otherwise, I think people might be disappointed, but there's never a conscious effort on my part to imitate him. And if people think I'm anything like him that's the biggest compliment ever."
After all the lockdowns and restrictions, he's excited to be back on stage. "To have a break, then come back, gives you a whole new lease of life. The audiences are loving it and it's been the best experience."