School's in Session with Emily Borromeo
October 20, 2017
A rock band in tight leather and long fringe takes the stage and begins to sing. The song is loud and hilarious with long haired 80s band lyrics like, “I’m too hot for you; it’s not me it’s you.” The song finishes with a band member, the guitarist, getting kicked out of the band in a swirl of a growing guitar riff and strobe lighting. The stage goes black. Patty storms on stage in a maroon and black dress, black blazer, and black pumps. She is angry and adamant, gesturing wildly. “Do we have to do this now?” Patty’s boyfriend Ned Schneebly asks timidly. “Yes, he trashed the house again. I’m sick of it,” she says insistently with the tone of someone whose patience has finally been pushed to the limit. After arguing with Ned a bit longer, she then proceeds to march over to the bed at center stage, yank back the covers, and demand, “Wake up, Dewey! Time to get up!” Emily Borromeo is currently playing Patty, the apparent “bad guy,” in the national tour of School of Rock.
School of Rock was originally a 2003 movie starring Jack Black that was then adapted for the stage. The Broadway show, while having a very similar plot to the movie, has a score written by Andrew Lloyd Weber and the added thrill of watching the child actors play their instruments live. The show opened in Pittsburgh Tuesday October 17th at the Benedum Center and runs through the 22nd. This is Borromeo’s first time in Pittsburgh and she says, “I am excited to explore! I heard a rumor that they put French Fries in your sandwiches... sign me up.”
School of Rock follows Dewey Finn, a rock star wannabe who has just been kicked out of his band and fired from his job. He’s freeloading off his best friend, Ned, and Ned’s girlfriend, Patty. In a desperate last effort to pay rent to Ned and Patty to avoid eviction, Dewey pretends to be Ned to take a job as a substitute teacher at the prestigious preparatory Horace Green School.
After a disastrous first day with his class, Dewey hears them playing classical music and suddenly has an epiphany: he can use his students to create a band to enter against his former band in the Battle of the Bands competition. He takes his class of, as he calls them originally, “little douchebags,” and transforms them into a rock band aptly called The School of Rock. The show maneuvers familial issues as the children find acceptance and their voices under Dewey’s nontraditional schooling and as members of The School of Rock.
Unlike the children in the show, however, Patty is less enthusiastic about rock. She sees it as childish and wants her boyfriend Ned, an ex-rock musician, to grow up and for Dewey to take on responsibility – especially when it comes to paying them rent. Patty and Dewey butt heads in the show, occasionally making rational Patty appear unreasonable to the audience that sympathizes with Dewey. However, despite sometimes being the “enemy” Borromeo enjoys playing her.
She says, “Patty is such a fun character to play because she creates a lot of the tension in the plot line. She's actually very reasonable and her arguments are always right, but she's pinned as the enemy against Dewey Finn, who is the show's hero. She is ambitious, confident, and driven. She is successful in her professional life, working for the mayor of the city, and she is trying to get her boyfriend Ned Schneebly to take their relationship seriously (mainly by standing up to his lazy, manipulative, juvenile best friend, Dewey Finn). She sets an ultimatum for Dewey: pay the rent by the end of the month, or find another place to stay. Pretty reasonable, right? Come on. #TeamPatty.”
Borromeo has a special connection to and long history with School of Rock. It was her Broadway debut and about it she says, "School of Rock was my Broadway debut, so in addition to joining such a fantastic cast and crew, I got to experience such a huge personal milestone that I had been working toward for a long time. I loved being a part of the show and getting to inspire audiences with the story we were telling. I especially enjoyed hearing about kids who began voice lessons or picked up an instrument because they saw our show.”
School of Rock has a large number of child actors who play in a live band onstage while acting as characters in the plot. In many of the most famous numbers from the show such as, “You’re In the Band,” “Stick It To the Man,” and “School of Rock (Teacher’s Pet)” all feature the child musicians. In the show, their talent astounds and only adds to the magic of the show. About working with children Borromeo says, “I've always enjoyed working with kids. I have had side jobs nannying, singing in "Mommy & me" music classes, and camp counseling. It's cool to work with the kids of School of Rock because their talent is so inspiring and they bring such a fabulous energy to the stage, and then when they are not at work they are on their scooters, heading to have lunch at the park together. It's really sweet.”
For Borromeo working with children and working in a show geared toward children is nothing new. Borromeo worked for three years as a host of an educational preschool TV show called The Sunny Side Up Show that educated children and promoted qualities like kindness. About the show she says, “I loved my time at Sprout working on "The Sunny Side Up Show" I had the opportunity to write original music, create creative preschool curriculum, script out comedic sketches for celebrities, and host a live television program. I had some amazing coworkers and got to be silly every single day. It was a dream job.”
Like The Sunny Side Up Show, School of Rock is ultimately about empowering children and giving them the confidence to speak up and even tell their parents that they want to play in a rock band instead of go to Harvard. For Borromeo, inspiring people is greatest reward. She says, “One of the most rewarding parts of my job is when people tell me that I've inspired them or made a positive impact on them. When I was working on "Sunny Side Up," there were many families who thanked me for being a positive role model for their children and a cheerful part of their morning routines. I met a guy at the stage door of School of Rock who was so excited to meet an Asian American actor on Broadway, and he was happy to see that it was possible to succeed in this industry as a person of color. These experiences truly warm my heart and encourage me.”
Everything about School of Rock is inspiring. From the spotlight that it shines on positive familial relations to the sheer talent of the entire cast, it is hard to leave the show without smiling and wanting to “stick it to the man” in addition to having a heightened appreciation for live theatre. Watching the kids play their instruments live and the perfect chemistry between the actors, no one could walk away without being in awe of the talent that it takes to perform live theatre.
About live theatre versus film and television Borromeo says, “I have loved working in film, television, live television, and theater. Each experience has taught me so much and helped me grow in different ways. Film and television are more drawn out processes–you have to get the perfect camera angles, you film the scenes many times, you wait in your dressing room for everything to be set up, your scenework has to stay as consistent as possible from take to take. Then you have this beautiful end product that you can watch over and over. There is nothing like live theater. No performance is the same, and there is such a beauty and freedom in the ability to try new things each night. Every show gives you a unique group of people, from the audience members to the cast and crew. You rehearse more extensively and then trust your instincts, hard work, and fellow actors once you step onstage.”
The Bay Area native has known since she was four years old that she wanted to be a musical performer after seeing ever the movies Singin' in the Rain and The Wizard of Oz. She says that she would sing along to cassette tapes of 50s and 60s music and make up musicals and then started voice lessons at the age of 8. Upon graduating high school Borromeo attended Brown University.
After “school” lets out, Borromeo isn’t sure what comes next. She says, “I am not sure what comes after School of Rock, but I am excited to see what it may be. We can never predict the way the wind will take us, but I am open to all the future projects that may await in NYC!”
School of Rock runs at the Benedum Center from October 17-22nd. Be sure to see it and "pledge allegience to the band!"