Flying Higher Than A Led Zepplin: The Zephyr Theatre + School of Rock!

After the success of Mamma Mia last summer, The Zephyr Theatre is back with School of Rock! The musical, another Broadway by the Bridge production. Performing on the banks of the St. Croix River, The Zephyr Theatre has assembled an all-star cast featuring Reed Sigmund as Dewey Finn, Jen Burleigh-Bentz as Rosalie with 12 professional Youth Performing Artists to bring this rock musical to life. The show —for those not familiar with the Jack Black-vehicle movie version—follows wannabe rock star Dewey Finn, who decides to earn some extra cash by posing as a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school. He then turns his class of straight–A pupils into a guitar-shredding, bass-slapping, mind-blowing rock band.

DISPATCH sat down with Reed and a few of the Youth Artists about bringing this iconic movie to the stage in Stillwater.

Reed Sigmund has been part of The Children’s Theatre Company as a Company Member for 22 years and has been the Director of Education at Zephyr Theatre since 2021. He is leaping into his second production with Zephyr as Dewey Finn and calls the experience on stage a true slice of life. “The cast of students are so fun to work with, watching them interact and play together has been exciting and rewarding for me and the high point of this experience. The dynamic I have with them in real life is a lot like what you will see on stage.” His worlds have collided with having previously worked with many members of the youth cast at Zephyr through education programs or onstage at The Children’s Theatre. After moving to the area from Eagan, Reed loved the community and was excited to help grow the work being done at Zephyr. He is excited to be able to perform there this summer. “I don’t think you can get this experience anywhere else around here. Seeing a movie is one thing but experiencing live theatre right by the river is something else, by the time you get to the second act and the ‘concert part’ with the lift bridge lit up behind us, it’s just magical.” Reed said he could tell lots of stories about this experience but they would be best explained by the youth performers he has the privilege of working with including Sam Mandell, Mabel Weisman, and Mari Peterson-Hilleque.

Sam Mandell makes his Zephyr Theatre debut as Freddie. Most recently, Sam played Fregley in Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Musical at Children’s Theatre Company. Other credits include Annie (CTC), Elf the Musical, Jr. (Stages Theatre Company), Mary Poppins (Minnetonka Theatre), and The Little Mermaid Jr. (Blue Water Theatre). In the production Freddie is the drummer in the class band which allows for an incredibly cool opportunity for Sam to show off his skills. “When I started taking drumming lessons I never thought I would be able to incorporate that into a character on stage. I now have that opportunity to not only play my instrument on stage every night.. but also get to sing, dance and act at the same time, it’s really cool.” Sam watched the movie from 2003 in preparation for this show and says it’s very similar to the movie with one important change, “the kids have a bigger role.”

Mabel Weisman added “we get to dive into their story lines a lot more and get to know each kid better, plus there is a TON more energy and dances that makes it a new experience.” Mabel is also making her Zephyr Theatre debut as Summer. Other credits include How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Children’s Theatre Company), The Sound of Music (Ordway), A Christmas Carol (Guthrie Theater), A Little Night Music (Theater Latté Da), Jesus Christ Superstar (Ordway), and Mary Poppins (Artistry). “We are all friends in real life and it’s so great to bring that fun energy to the stage! I have known Reed for over half my life so it’s extra fun to be in this role and getting to see the real life reactions from the people sharing this stage.” Performing outdoors comes with a new set of challenges that Mabel says are completely worth it to get to the end result ” the sunset and scenery is so magical and adds a lot to seeing this show.”

Mari Peterson-Hilleque is playing the role of Tomika and also making her debut at Zephyr Theatre. She has performed at various local theaters including Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, Children’s Theatre Company, Steppingstone Theater, and Youth Performance Company. Production credits include: Diary of a Wimpy Kid The Musical, Annie, Nate the Great the Musical, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Ruby: The Story of Ruby Bridges. Mari commutes from Minneapolis for the production and has had so much fun checking out Stillwater, “it’s a great destination, you should come down early to explore the town then come down to the river side and see the show”. She raved about the experience she was having with Zephyr , “Everyone has been so nice and a great energy to be around which makes creating and performing this show even better. I love to be able to play off the energy of Reed and the entire cast.”

It was obvious that this cast was proud of the work they are presenting and to work alongside each other to perform this rocking musical. Tickets for each 7 p.m. performance range from $22-$120 and can be purchased online. More information is at https://www.stillwaterzephyrtheatre.org/school-of-rock/. The final thoughts from Reed were simple, “If you love the movie you will love the musical, come check it out”. Running through July 28th, time is running out to see this cast “Stick it to the Man.”

WHEN YOU GO:

Only two shows remain:
Wednesday, July 27
Thursday, July 28
Adult – $45
Children or student with valid ID – $30

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