The stricter regulations in the UK meant that Lord Lloyd Webber has had to hire three times as many child actors for his stage adaptation of the Jack Black film School of Rock than he did in the United States, where the show opened on Broadway in December 2015.
He said last year that casting for the London version of the production would be “three times the work” as it was in New York, where he could work with one cast. It has resulted in the show having to find 39 child actors, all of whom play their own instrument live on stage, compared to 13 in the United States.
“I think there is still a feeling that we are sending children down the mines,” he said at the West End launch of the British version of the production. “Therefore we have to have this number of children.
“But I am really glad that we are going to have three sets of children because it is rather wonderful to feel that they are all going to get an opportunity.
“I might not have been saying that if we had not found the pool of talent that we have, but right now I am really pleased that we have got them.”
Lord Lloyd Webber has written the score for the production, while fellow peer and Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes has adapted the film, which was released in 2003, for the stage.
Lord Lloyd Webber went on to criticise producers who drive up the prices of theatre tickets by staging the shows in smaller theatres. He added that the Broadway production of School of Rock, which was held at the Winter Garden Theatre in Manhattan, could have been staged in a smaller theater to increase ticket prices, but said he would rather keep the musical accessible.
“It’s a very big issue,” he said. “Because what’s happened is that theatres can now do dynamic pricing like airlines do. They can see where there is demand and where there is not.
“You are never going to get it 101 per cent right, but I do believe that it is really important that theatre is accessible.
“That’s one of the reasons we went into a rather bigger theatre in Broadway than perhaps some people suggested, because there is a school of thought that you keep the show really tight and force the ticket prices up.
“There are several producers who have been doing that but I am really not one of them.”
The show is centred on a struggling musician who bluffs his way into a teaching role at an elite school before leading his students against authority and into a rock band. It opens in London in November, by which time it will have been tweaked for a British audience, according to Lord Fellowes.
“Some of the one liners will play in both countries and others will be adjusted,” he said. “Also there’s timing - we have jokes in there about Donald Trump and also about a woman President. Very shortly we may have to be adjusting those slightly.”
When asked if there was something incongruous about two Lords creating a musical from a film which centred on “sticking it to the man”, Lord Lloyd Webber joked: “Well, I sometimes feel it when I go to the Lords.”
To which Lord Fellowes replied: “Careful! Or we won’t get any tea.”