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Q&A: Eric Petersen, the Star of ‘School of Rock’

Category Actor Spotlight

|by Jeryl Brunner |

Eric Petersen plays Dewey Finn in ‘School of Rock’

Eric Petersen brings his A-game rocking out as Dewey Finn in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical School of Rock. He plays the lovable and high energy substitute teacher in the show that is based on the film. Petersen is also known for portraying Arlo Barth on the TV Land sitcom Kirstie


Eric Petersen as Dewey Finn in 'School of Rock' (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

Eric Petersen as Dewey Finn in 'School of Rock' (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

What qualities do you love about Dewey?
Eric Petersen:
I love that Dewey follows his gut without any regard for what might happen. He sees what he wants – to be known as the greatest rock star who ever lived. And he just goes full tilt at that objective. He is totally fearless. I also love how he connects to people. I’d like to think that he looks past what other people might think of themselves and he sees the best qualities in them.  He makes those around him better by the end of the play.

What is the joy of doing School of Rock
Working with the kids and playing in a really good rock band every night! I love the connection to the kids and playing comedy with them. When they really laugh at what I am doing, I know I am doing something right.

What was the first Broadway show you ever saw?
The first Broadway show I saw was Beauty and The Beast in 2002. I came to New York City for the first time with a college group that were Radio/TV majors interested in broadcasting and stuff.  (It was my double major in school.)  I convinced the group to come to a Broadway play and we all agreed on Beauty and The Beast. The play was great and I knew that someday I would want to do that same thing.

When did you know you had to be a performer? 
As a kid, I was small and got picked on a lot.  I turned to comedy as a defense mechanism. In 3rd grade, I did a sketch for my class where I played Ross Perot, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush.  It killed and I knew that this is what I was doing with my life.

Do you remember the first time you were on stage? 
I tried out for the football team. Didn’t “quite” make it there. But when I tried out for the school play in high school I made it as Fili, a dwarf, in the play The Hobbit.

Your career has thrived in TV and on the stage.  What does performing live on stage give you? 
EP: The instant feedback with an audience you get on Broadway cannot be replicated anywhere else. Each night, the new audience brings a different energy to the show and it becomes a unique experience because of them. I love working in a medium where you and a bunch of other skilled professionals are crafting an experience on a two-hour train ride that is not stopping. From the moment you take off, you are working together to tell a story and this is your one chance to reach these people.

What is your favorite thing to do on your day off? 
I have a 7-year-old, Sophie, and a two-year-old, Miles. My wife and I love to take them to the park in the morning, see a movie in the afternoon and eat dinner outside, weather permitting of course.  If we are really lucky, I can get in some points with the wife and do a date night to cap it off.

Would you say you are really a rock n’ roll guy or a musical theater guy? 
EP: Some people are a little bit rock ’n’ roll and a little bit country. I’m a little bit rock ’n’ roll and a little bit musical theater.  Although Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar IS my favorite show because it is exactly both.

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