FEATURE: Freya is rocking out onstage in the West End
Freya Yates was just three years old when she caught the theatre bug.
After starting singing and dancing lessons a year earlier, the Sheffield tot landed her first role in a local production of Aladdin shortly after turning four.
Two years later, she joined a theatre group and, following a group trip to watch a professional production of Matilda, attended a theatre workshop for kids.
“I loved it - it was then and there I knew I wanted to be on the West End,” grins Freya, now aged ten.
It was a dream she would go on to realise earlier than most, joining the cast of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock in January this year.
Now Freya, who plays the role of Summer in the hit musical, splits her time between her home city of Sheffield, and London, while she takes on her first major West End role, working alongside some of the country’s most seasoned professionals.
“It all started when I secured a place at Stagebox Theatre School in Leeds back in 2016,” Freya says.
“They soon asked me to be on their management books, which allows you to be offered auditions.”
Stagebox put Freya forward for the role of Summer in School of Rock, a role she has shared with two other girls for the past six months.
“It’s amazing the feeling I get on stage, it’s completely changed my life,” Freya says.
“It was very nerve-wracking at first, performing to such a big audience, but I’m used to it now. I always dreamed about being onstage in the West End and it’s incredible that I’m actually there now. I’m very proud of myself.”
And Freya’s CV has continued to grow since she journeyed down south to the capita. As well as School of Rock, she’s performed with Rachel Tucker, who plays Elphaba in Wicked, at Shoreditch Town Hall in London, and was also in ‘Children of the West End Leicester Square’ in December last year.
Freya is now one of 36 children sharing 12 roles in School of Rock, and spends two weeks out of three in London, followed by a week off at home. Whilst in London, she lives in the production house with other members of the cast, where her tutoring is provided. When she is back home in Sheffield, she shifts back into her ‘normal’ life easily, attending her own primary school with her friends.
Freya’s mum, Abigali, who also has two other daughters, says: “This has been Freya’s dream since she was six. Of course it was hard at first, being only ten years old and being away from her family, but being on that stage makes it all worth it for her.
“The first time we all watched her onstage in School of Rock was the proudest moment of our lives. We are so unbelievably proud of her, especially because she’s so young.
“We know this is only the start for Freya and we couldn’t be more proud of what we know she will achieve.”
Based on the iconic 2003 film of the same name, ‘School of Rock - The Musical’ follows slacker and wannabe rock star Dewey Finn as he turns a class of straight-A ten-year-old students into an ear popping, riff scorching, all conquering rock band.
Dewey poses as a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school in order to make ends meet, and when he discovers his fifth graders’ musical talents, he enlists his class to form a rock group and conquer the Battle of the Bands.
As the character of Summer Hathaway, who initially plays clarinet in the school music class, and later becomes the manager of Dewey’s School of Rock band, Freya has a lot of dialogue in the show, and even kicks off the second act with a solo number, thrusting the tiny steel city girl right into the spotlight.
“Summer is very organised and wants everyone to do their best at all times,” smiles Freya.
“She is a leader and likes to take charge. I sing a solo in act two called ‘Time to Play,’ which is amazing, and I have lots of dialogue in the show too.
“The first time I auditioned for the role of Summer was in May 2017. I was asked back to audition in November, and then was amazed after three rounds of auditons when I was offered the part of Summer just before Christmas last year.
“The day I found out I’d got the part was absolutely the happiest of my life so far!”
School of Rock’s children’s casting director Jessica Ronane revealed recently that, during open auditions for the show, it wasn’t unusual for her to see as many as 100 children a day. And while she is always on the lookout for kids will great instrument skills, as well as brilliant actors and singers, she says that a great smile, energy, and sense of fun with the other children in the room are also top of her list.
“We first met Freya in Sheffield in June 2017, and were blown away by her voice and her Summer like qualities,” says Jessica.
“We are absolutely thrilled to have her as part of the cast and she is a wonderful addition to the show - with a powerhouse of a voice for one so small!”
Mum, Abigail, adds: “For as long as we can remember, Freya has been a born performer, singing for her family and friends every chance she got, and so confident on stage, even from such an early age.
“She once said to me, after we’d watched a West End show in London, “one day mum, that will be me” - and she was right!”
School of Rock is at the Gillian Lynne Theatre, and is currently booking to January 13 2019.
Follow Freya on Twitter @FreyaYates