OUR STRAIGHT MATES: BRENT HILL

He may be in mu­si­cal the­atre but, reck­ons Brent Hill, from Rock Of Ages to School Of Rock, who needs text­books when you have gui­tars!

DNA Magazine - - CONTENT #227 - BY MATTHEW MY­ERS

Who needs text­books when you have gui­tars reck­ons Brent, star of Rock Of Ages and School Of Rock.

DNA: What’s the best thing about work­ing in mu­si­cal the­atre?

Brent Hill: I love plug­ging into an au­di­ence and feel­ing the en­ergy that they bring, be­cause it changes ev­ery show. It moves, changes and evolves. It keeps things fresh when you’re do­ing eight shows a week for sev­eral months. I re­cently saw Patti LuPone and you can hear that in the way that she sings. She’s in­cred­i­bly smart; it’s just a sim­ple thing of chang­ing vow­els so it’s not as harsh on the vo­cal chords. She did Don’t Cry For Me Ar­gentina with great con­vic­tion. I love the tech­ni­cal side of the­atre. Your stage roles in­clude Rock Of Ages, Lit­tle Shop Of Hor­rors, Once and now School Of Rock… is there a dream role await­ing you? Evita!

Er… as Evita?

It was be­tween Tina Arena and me, but I got School Of Rock so I let her have it! [Laughs] Ac­tu­ally, I’ve done a lot of the roles that I wanted, like Sey­mour in Lit­tle Shop Of Hor­rors and Leo Bloom in The Pro­duc­ers. Now I’m in­ter­ested in writ­ing and cre­at­ing my own mu­si­cals. I have four on my cur­rent project board, and I’ve writ­ten my­self a role in two of them.

How would you de­scribe Dewey Finn, your School Of Rock char­ac­ter?

He’s a bit of a drop­kick who just loves rock’n’roll. He’s so fo­cused on it that all other as­pects of his life get for­got­ten, in­clud­ing look­ing after him­self. He ba­si­cally sees him­self rock­ing out on a moun­tain­top with Thor and Odin. But he’s mid-’30s, can’t pay his rent and needs money. So, he poses as his friend Ned, takes his role as a sub­sti­tute teacher at a pres­ti­gious school where the kids play clas­si­cal mu­sic, and he gets them into rock.

In de­vel­op­ing Dewey, did Jack Black’s char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion from the film in­flu­ence you? It can be tricky. Years ago, I did a pro­duc­tion of Cosi and de­vel­oped my own char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion for Roy. But a few days be­fore the show I watched the film, where Barry Otto played it ex­cep­tion­ally well. Then, of course, my ver­sion changed. It’s a weird mid­dle ground be­cause you have to be half what peo­ple ex­pect and some­thing that’s your own.

What gives School Of Rock its gusto?

It’s a great story; fun and, ul­ti­mately, it’s joy­ful. A lot of the magic is see­ing the kids play their in­stru­ments live. It has real en­ergy and it’s a rock con­cert where the kids are sa­vants. They’re like nine- and 12-years-old and al­ready ex­em­plary mu­si­cians.

Are you into AC/DC-style rock? I’ve al­ways been a more jazz-based mu­si­cian. That said, all my cousins are huge Acca Dacca, Guns N’ Roses and Nir­vana fans. I’d hang out with them and lis­ten to that mu­sic by proxy. When I did Rock Of Ages there was a lot of singing like Axl Rose ev­ery night!

What about play­ing guitar?

I’m more of a pi­anist and drum­mer. For School Of Rock I’ve been prac­tic­ing guitar. Who are your favourite artists?

One of my favourite songs is Sweet Child O’ Mine by Guns N’ Roses but at the same time I can en­joy Miles Davis or big band jazz.

Who’s your diva?

Whit­ney. My go-to song is I Wanna Dance With Some­body. When it comes to get­ting up to dance I love Bey­oncé’s Sin­gle Ladies.

Have you ever played a gay role?

My last role was as Lord Gor­ing in An Ideal Hus­band and he’s an em­bod­i­ment of Os­car Wilde. It’s not gay per se but it has that hid­den agenda. In fact, dur­ing the first pro­duc­tion of the play, Wilde was jailed. A lot of the play deals with self-ac­cep­tance and pub­lic ac­cep­tance. Speak­ing of pub­lic ac­cep­tance, what was your im­pres­sion of last year’s mar­riage equal­ity de­bate?

I was in­cred­i­bly dis­ap­pointed that some peo­ple, who I knew quite well, held these mis­in­formed opin­ions. It was just ter­ri­ble. I have a lot of gay friends and when the same-sex mar­riage law passed it was a won­der­ful, joy­ful day. We all cel­e­brated and for­got the stress of work.

Who has been the big­gest in­flu­ence on your pro­fes­sional ca­reer?

My par­ents have been very sup­port­ive and my grand­mother was a dress­maker and she’d make me cos­tumes like Spi­der­man and Sher­lock Holmes. I al­ways en­joyed the process of cre­at­ing a char­ac­ter and my fam­ily en­cour­aged me. In fact, ev­ery sin­gle per­son I’ve worked with has in­flu­enced me in some way, whether good or bad. I learned long ago not to have he­roes and meet them but, that said, I worked with Hugo Weav­ing on The Re­sistible Rise Of Ar­turo Ui and he’s the best ac­tor I’ve ever seen. He’s not guarded at all, there’s no ego and it’s all about the work. He was one of those peo­ple I was wary about meet­ing but, once I did, I fell in love with him.

Have you ever had an on-stage wardrobe mal­func­tion?

In An Ideal Hus­band we had an el­e­gant up­per­class party scene with a chaise lounge. I sat on it and it tum­bled like a Jenga tower! We were meant to be hav­ing a fun time, and the whole thing just broke apart. Michelle Lim David­son, who played Ma­bel, sim­ply said, “Oh, don’t worry, I’ve got enough money to pay for that!”

When the same-sex mar­riage law passed it was a won­der­ful, joy­ful day.

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