Just a couple of days ago, musical theatre actor Oscar Francisco took to the stage for the final time as Lawrence in the West End’s School of Rock. Having been in the cast for a year, Oscar collected an Olivier Award along with his fellow School of Rock friends, and the role has seen him perform to large crowds every week, including a show at Camp Bestival. We talked to Oscar about what it was like playing Lawrence in School of Rock, what life is like appearing in a West End show and filming for Beauty and the Beast.
What’s it been like playing Lawrence in School of Rock in the West End?
Playing Lawrence is an honour and complete privilege. I have loved every minute. Stepping into his shy, geeky shoes every night and emerging as a rock star is a lot of fun. I’m having the best time playing as part of a live rock band and the audience reaction is fantastic and helps keep the energy alive and fresh for each show.
Can you tell us about your character and had you seen the film before being cast?
Lawrence is a shy boy who plays classical piano. At the start of the show, he has no friends, zero confidence and thinks he’s not cool. By the end… well, you’ll have to come and see! Before I auditioned, I watched the film as a point of reference to understand the story. But Lawrence is featured more in the musical than in the film so there was a lot more to work with.
What was the auditioning process like and how long were you rehearsing?
The band auditions were intense but fun. There were lots of talented musicians there who played multiple instruments. In early rounds, we had to sing a solo rock song and I played drums and keys. Later, we read the parts of Lawrence, Zack and Billy and, in another round, we learned and performed choreo. In finals, we played in a few different bands and auditioned for Andrew Lloyd Webber himself. This was nerve-racking but a huge honour. If ever there was a time to make an audition count, this was it.
From the start of rehearsals, it was about nine weeks to the first preview on October 24th 2016, but this was on rehearsal rotation with the other two teams so, in reality, much less.
How many shows do you perform each week and how long are you in the cast for?
There are 39 children on the show who work in three teams of thirteen. The teams work on rotation so there are no set days. If you come to see the show, you will have a great time whichever team you see. I was cast in July 2016, I played my first preview on October 26th and will be leaving the show in September 2017.
What do you miss most about having to live away from home while performing in the West End?
This is the first time I’ve lived away from home for work. On the days I’m performing, I live in the School of Rock house with the other children who live too far away from London to travel home each day. Having a music room to jam in with your friends in the house is the best part. I’m not sure my neighbours at home would go for that! I see my parents and friends from home quite a bit when I’m not performing and I’m so busy I’ve not had time to get homesick.
What’s your favourite song in School of Rock?
Stick It to the Man, it’s the most fun to play, so full of energy and we get to rock our solos.
The show won Outstanding Achievement in Music at the Olivier Awards, what was it like collecting the award?
It was the proudest moment of my life. The twelve musicians (four in each team) had worked so hard to get to that moment with lots of fun along the way. To share it with the people who had become like a family to me was just amazing. I couldn’t believe it when they announced our name. A true pinch yourself moment.
Can you tell us about the experience of performing to a large audience at Camp Bestival and did you get to watch any of the other acts?
Camp Bestival was so much fun. Very wet, very muddy fun! Playing to a 25,000+ crowd waving their arms in the air to God Gave Rock n Roll To You is a memory I’ll never forget. We braved 2ft of mud to get to the front to watch Madness who were cool and Mark Ronson who was absolutely amazing. He shook my hand! If you’re reading this – hi, Mark!
Have you had chance to appear on any TV shows whilst in the cast of School of Rock?
We recorded Tonight At The London Palladium with Bradley Walsh recently and played Teacher’s Pet from the show.
You’ve appeared in a few theatre shows already, is it something you’ve always wanted to do?
I’ve performed from a young age and my mum runs a theatre school so I’ve always been surrounded by music and theatre. I love performing. School of Rock has been an awesome experience as I’ve been surrounded by musicians my own age. It’s been a year of fantastic memories, making music and laughter.
Have you had any stand-out funny moments on stage in any of the shows you’ve performed in?
When I was in Priscilla Queen of the Desert, my finale costume was a huge mascot-sized kangaroo with a heavy tail. It was always getting in the way and tripping people up. One night, I was bouncing my way to the front of the stage for my bow and turned to go to my place and almost took out three of the ensemble. Happy memories!
What was it like filming for the Disney feature film Beauty and the Beast and did you get to meet the whole cast?
It was a very exciting shoot but a very different experience to working on stage where everything moves much faster and the reaction to your work is much more immediate. Beauty and the Beast filmed in 2015, I was on set for about a week shooting my small role in the village scene and recording the song Belle for the soundtrack, and the film came out in 2017. I remember being completely in awe of the set. Belle’s village was just unreal and huge. We met Emma Watson (who plays Belle) and Luke Evans (who played Gaston) who were on set that day. I also met musical legend Alan Menken, who wrote the score for Beauty and the Beast amongst other Disney films, who was there for the recording and gave us some pointers on our singing.
We understand you’ve previously filmed for The Dog Ate My Homework on CBBC, how much fun was it to film?
So much fun. That programme is as insane as it looks on TV. My favourite part was ‘Pie The Supply (teacher)’ for obvious reasons.
What music genres can you perform and what musical instruments do you play?
I’ll have a go at any genres but I am into rock, classical (just like my character in School of Rock!) and EDM. I play piano, guitar, bass, drums, ukulele and have just taken up the violin.
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