Evie Dolan Takes Us Inside Broadway's "School of Rock"
Pint-size triple threat Evie Dolan has played bass-guitarist Katie in Andrew Lloyd Webber's School of Rock—The Musical since the show opened on the Great White Way this past December. The 11-year-old NYC native has studied everything from ballet to lyrical to jazz at the Joffrey Ballet School and, more recently, at Downtown Dance Factory. She's also a natural actress and plays piano, ukulele, guitar, mandolin and saxophone. Along with the other 13 kids in the School of Rock cast, Dolan performs all eight shows per week. She took Dance Spirit behind the curtain for a look at seven days in her Broadway life. —Courtney Bowers
Friday, January 29
This week started off early with a performance on “The View." We arrived at the ABC Studios at 8 am, and rehearsed on the super-cool set they custom-made with a digital screen of our School of Rock classroom. I don't get nervous often, but I have to admit, going on live TV in front of a studio audience gave me the jitters. As soon as I started playing my bass guitar though, everything was fine. The co-hosts of the show were so nice and funny—we had a blast!
After our performance, I got to rest a bit, and then I went to the theater for our evening show. As usual, I arrived for our call time of half an hour before curtain, got into my costume, got my hair done and did my own makeup. Sometimes there are a few minutes left to do something special. For example, every Friday night, we have a ritual called “Dollar Friday." The whole cast and crew buy raffle tickets for a dollar each, and someone picks the winning ticket out of the container. These days, the pot can get up to around $200, so it's really exciting when someone wins. I'm always sure I'll win, but I lost this week—wah! I'd never heard of Dollar Friday before, but cast members who have been in previous Broadway shows knew all about it, and told me it's a Broadway tradition.
Saturday, January 30
On Saturdays we have two shows. It's tiring, but it's also a lot of fun. A great thing about Saturdays is that lots of friends who don't live in NYC come to visit and see the show. Today a big group of friends from Putney, VT, drove down and I got to have a nice dinner with them at Rockefeller Center between shows. Also, our former cast mate Aaron Fig, who played James during the show's Gramercy Theatre run, came to visit us. We were so happy to see him!
(from top) Jared Parker, Cori Wilson and Evie backstage (courtesy Dolan)
Sunday, January 31
Before the show we usually warm up with our dance captain Patrick O'Neill and assistant dance captain Lulu Lloyd, and today was no different. Our warm-ups are really fun; we play different songs each time based on our requests. Today was my turn, and I picked “Time Machine," by Ingrid Michaelson. Each show, Patrick and Lulu also teach a little dance combo they've created for us. We add a new 8-count to it every show, so after a few weeks we end up with a big dance number that we all know! The choreography helps keep us on our toes for future rehearsals or auditions.
The kids' cast is onstage for most of the show, but there are some scenes when we're just waiting backstage. We have to be quiet, but we come up with fun things to do to fill the time. I usually knit. My cast mate Shahadi Wright Joseph and I even started a little company called Backstage Knitters. We have custom labels, and other cast members order knit goods from us. This Sunday, I was knitting a headband for myself. I've been doing a lot of headbands lately because they're really quick and easy.
Monday, February 1
On Mondays, I usually rest and catch up on a lot of schoolwork, but sometimes I have other cool jobs. This Monday, I was hired by English Egg (a company that makes albums of nursery rhymes and songs to help children learn English) to record “London Bridge Is Falling Down," and a few other songs at Avatar Studios. I love Avatar Studios because that's where our School of Rock band recorded the original cast album back in October.
Tuesday, February 2
For the past few Tuesdays, I've been having a blast with my cast mates Cori Wilson and Jersey Sullivan rehearsing for an upcoming cabaret called Broadway Sessions. We're doing two songs, along with our cast mate Dante Melucci. We're mixing up the instruments we play in the show, so for the cabaret, I'll be playing electric guitar for one song and ukulele for another. This afternoon we rehearsed for an hour in the West Village with our bass and guitar teacher.
Wednesday, February 3
Wednesdays are also two-show days, and I usually make sure I have a physical therapy appointment. Right now, I'm going to PT a lot, and it's especially important for me to go on two-show days because my muscles get really sore and tight, not only from the heavy bass I play, but also from the dance numbers we do in the show—“Stick It to the Man" has a ton of jumping! PT keeps me flexible and warmed up.
Celebrating at TGI Friday's after a show (courtesy Dolan)
Yesterday, we found out that Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator and star of Hamilton, had arranged for our School of Rock band to play “Sweet Child O' Mine," by Guns N' Roses, during his digital #Ham4Ham performance on Saturday, February 6. The show would be part of the celebration of the 20th anniversary of Kids' Night on Broadway. I knew the song pretty well already, but I needed to nail down a few parts, so the show band's bass player helped me figure it all out in between performances today. Everyone in our show helps each other out whenever we need anything. We really are like a family. Plus, I got to visit our version of an orchestra pit, which is so cool. People think of orchestra pits as being at the front of the stage where the audience can see the tops of the musicians' heads, but our musicians play under the middle of the stage. They have monitors so they can watch what's happening onstage, and there are tons of instruments.
What are #Ham4Ham shows? They're the short performances Lin-Manuel Miranda gives for fans waiting in Hamilton's ticket lottery line on most Wednesdays and Saturdays. Some shows are given in person outside of the Richard Rodgers Theatre, but others, like School of Rock's, are shown digitally. Check out Hamilton's YouTube page to watch the kids' rockin' “Sweet Child O' Mine" performance.
Thursday, February 4
Today we had band practice all afternoon at our rehearsal space. Then, at 4 pm, we started rehearsing “Sweet Child O' Mine." It came together really well, and we were ready to tape when Lin-Manuel and the Tony-winning actress and rock star Lena Hall got there at 4:30 pm. Lena Hall totally killed the song—she even did Axl Rose's snake dance!
Thursday night was also our cast mate Jared Parker's last night in the show—he originated the part of Lawrence and is the first of the original cast to “graduate" from Horace Green Prep. We all love him so much. We had a “Happy Trails" ceremony for him during the half-hour before the show, and Alex Brightman and Sierra Boggess gave beautiful speeches. Cori Wilson and I sang a good-bye song we wrote for him called “This Band Is Your Band," to the tune of “This Land Is Your Land." After the show, everyone went across the street to TGI Friday's for a celebration. This show has brought all of us so close together. We know we'll be friends for life.