Just a couple of days ago, musical theatre actor, Oscar Francisco took to the stage for the final time as his role as Lawrence in the West End show, School of Rock. Having been in the cast for a year, the young actor collected an Olivier Award along with his fellow School of Rock friends. The role has seen him perform to large crowds every week including a show at Camp Bestival. We talked to him about what it was like playing Lawrence, filming for Beauty and the Beast and what life is like appearing in a West End show.
What’s it been like playing Lawrence in the stage show School of Rock?
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.
For those that haven’t seen the show, can you tell us a bit about your character?
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!
How long are you cast in the show for?
I was cast in July 2016. Played my first preview on October 26th and will be leaving the show in September 2017.
How many shows do you perform each week? For those that would like to see you in the show, do you have set days in which you appear?
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.
What was the auditioning process like?
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 wracking but a huge honour. If ever there was a time to make an audition count this was it.
Had you seen the film before being cast in the stage show?
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’s your favourite song in School of Rock?
‘Stick to the Man’, it’s the most fun to play, so full of energy and we get to rock our solos.
How many weeks did you have to rehearse for before it opened in the West End?
From the start 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.
What was it like picking up the award for Outstanding Achievement in Music at the Olivier Awards?
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.
Tell us about the experience of performing to a large audience at Camp Bestival, 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 plus crowd waving their arms in the air to ‘God Gave Rock n Roll To You’ is a memory I’ll never forget. We braved two ft 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!
Do you live away from home while appearing in theatre shows, if so what do you miss?
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.
(L to R): Oscar Francisco (Keys), Noah Key (Drums), Jake Slack (Guitar), Sophia Pettit (Bass)
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.
What was it like filming for Beauty and the Beast, 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.
How much fun did you have filming The Dog Ate My Homework?
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?
I’ll have a go at any genres but I am into rock, classical (Just like my character!) and EDM.
What musical instruments can you play?
I play piano, guitar, bass, drums, ukulele and have just taken up the violin.
Have you had chance to appear on any TV shows 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.
Have you had any funny experiences on stage?
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!
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