Though you may not see her on stage every night, Isabella Rose Sky plays one of the most important roles in the theater.
Thirteen-year-old Isabella is a swing in the touring cast of “School of Rock.” The Miami Beach native (full name: Isabella Rose Sky Klopukh) covers four roles, and has to be ready to go on for any of them at any minute. She’s been in the touring company for about two years.
Adapted into a musical from the 2003 movie by Andrew Lloyd Webber, “School of Rock” opened on Broadway in 2015 and ran through this past January.
Fresh off of its run at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, “School of Rock” is bringing its story of an unlikely music teacher and his musically gifted fifth-graders to Miami’s Arsht Center starting Tuesday for a six-day run. Aside from any understudy appearances, Isabella will be performing in the show at 1 p.m. Sunday, April 14.
And yes, the kids do play their instruments live.
We talked to Isabella about tour life, school, and returning to her hometown.
Q: What instruments do you play?
A: I started playing the piano when I was less than 2 years old, tagging along to my brother’s lessons. By the time I was 3, I started begging my parents for a violin, which I got a year later. I played the violin for the next five years. After that, I thought “Well, I want to play jazz music.” So I decided to start playing the alto saxophone when I was in fourth grade. Soon after, I started playing the acoustic guitar because I wanted to write my own music. And then the electric guitar because it was really cool. And I decided I wanted to expand my saxophone, so I started playing soprano saxophone. After that, I was playing in a jazz ensemble where I was really interested in playing the clarinet, as well. And the flute. And when I heard about the “School of Rock” audition, I thought “Well, my brother has a bass and I might as well learn to play the bass.”
Q: What instruments do you play in the show?
A: I understudy Katie the bass player, so I will also cover any of the bass music that’s played onstage. That’s the main instrument.
Q: What’s the most difficult part about being a swing?
A: The most challenging and difficult part is being called on at any moment. Since I understudy four different people, I have to make sure they’re separated in my head so that at any moment if I’m one of them, I make sure I know exactly what I’m doing.
Q: What was the rehearsal process like learning the different parts?
A: When I first came on the tour, my first or second week, I began doing music rehearsals and learning the basics of the show. I started with learning the Sophie role, or the roadie. I learned the whole role, and then I moved onto my next role, which was Katie the bass player. And I learned all the bass music and all of the different parts and I started learning how to keep those two separate in my head. Getting those tracks down. And then I started learning Marcy, one of the backup singers. I learned Marcy. And then after that, I learned Shonelle.
Q: Do you have any tricks for remembering all the parts you cover?
A: Distinguish them in your head by their choices and actions.
Q: What do you do on the nights that you aren’t on stage?
A: We have to be at the theater every show, even if we’re not on stage. Most of the time when we’re not in rehearsal or doing music rehearsals or running the show to keep our different tracks together, we’re backstage hanging out together. We play board games and video games and spend the time together.
Q: What is the shortest amount of notice you’ve had to go on for a part?
A: One day. Somebody came down with the flu.
Q: What’s your favorite part that you’ve gone on for?
A: Sophie, the roadie, because she’s got a complicated character, even though she might not be noticed as much. She doesn’t have such a forward role in the band, but she does a lot that’s behind the scenes. She plays a major role in the show.
Q: How many states have you visited so far?
A: Maybe 10 to 12
Q: Do you get time to explore while you’re there?
A: Definitely. Our eight shows are usually at night, and two matinees on the weekends, so we have the rest of the days, when there’s no schoolwork to be done, to go explore. We go to museums. We go see what the place has to offer.
Q: How is school on tour different than doing school at home?
A: For me, school is not different than what it was at home because I started doing virtual school about three years ago, when I was still at home. I take online classes, all of them through Florida Virtual School, and it’s basically the same thing.
Q: When you were in a brick-and-mortar school, were you involved in theater?
A: I was involved in theater at my elementary school, which was the last school I went to ... South Pointe Elementary School in Miami Beach, where I did theater with Miami Children’s Theater there.
Q: What do you miss the most about home when you’re on tour?
A: I miss all of my hobbies and my horse, my dog, my pets, my family.
Q: Do you get to horseback ride when you’re on the road?
A: Not really, but while we’re here in Florida, I’ve been able to go horseback riding twice so far, which is amazing.
Q: What is your favorite city that you have stopped at so far?
A: Toronto. We were there for a whole six weeks, which is the longest the tour has ever stayed in one place.
Q: Where do you stay when you’re on tour?
A: In pretty much every city, we stay at a hotel. Sometimes if we’re in a place for longer, or we have family visiting, then we’ll have an apartment or a condo.
Q: Would you consider doing another national tour?
A: I would definitely consider it.
Q: Do you want to continue acting when you grow up?
A: I’m pretty sure that I would continue pursuing acting. Or being a lawyer or a doctor.
Q: Who do you look up to the most in the industry?
A: Not necessarily in the theater industry, but it would have to be Billy Joel.
Q: What kind of advice would you give another kid that wants to get into theater?
A: I would tell them to immerse yourself in the theater. See as many shows as you can, be a part of all your school and local productions, and get as much experience as you can. And then if you’re ready, audition. Start going big.
IF YOU GO
What: School of Rock
When: Tuesday, April 9-Sunday, April 14
Where: Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts
Note: Isabella’s Guaranteed show: 1 p.m. Sunday, April 14