Banbury-born pupil on lead guitar for UK School of Rock musical tour

The stage version of the iconic film School of Rock has been touring the country – with a Helmdon Primary pupil singing and playing lead guitar in the band.

Hanley Webb on stage as Zack, the lead guitarist in School of Rock - The Musical
Hanley Webb on stage as Zack, the lead guitarist in School of Rock - The Musical

Jack Black starred on screen as the fake teacher who spent lessons sharing his love of rock music with his pupils and forming a band with them. It is an enduring, feelgood hit and audiences have also flocked to the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical take on the story.

Its UK theatre tour started in September and finishes this Saturday, July 30, in Sheffield, marking the end of a remarkable time for Hanley Webb, who only turned 11 in June – and has combined his final year of junior school with being on stage around the country.

Because of the young age of the performers there have been four sets of bands and three sets of ensemble teams, so Hanley has been away on tour ever other week for 12 months – two bands go away and do every other show at a time.

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    Between shows, we asked Hanley, who was born and lived in Banbury for five years before the family moved to near Brackley, about how he started playing guitar and what it’s been like starring in a hit musical.

    At what age did you start playing guitar and what inspired your love of music?

    I started playing when I was five years old, my dad plays the bass guitar in a covers band and it looked pretty cool so thought I’d give it a go.

    Do you come from a musical family?

    My dad loves all kinds of music and is always listening and playing it in one form or another. My mum can sing so she helped me with learning all my vocals for School of Rock.

    When did you start lessons and where did you go for the lessons that led to your amazing grade 8 in electric guitar, passed with distinction?

    Initially my dad taught me, then I started to have private lessons, I have had a few different teachers along the way, currently I attend the XYZ academy and have an awesome tutor.

    What was the journey that led to you getting the part in School of Rock?

    We saw the role advertised and thought it would be fun to put in an audition tape. We couldn’t believe it when we got a reply asking me for further audition material. At each stage I kept getting recalled for further auditions and then had a fairly long wait to hear due to covid and not knowing if or when the show could or would start. I finally found out in April last year. I came home from school and my parents had decorated the kitchen, bought lots of my favourite treats and had made me a banner saying ‘you’re in the band’ and that’s how I found out I had got through! I had never done any acting, singing or auditioned for anything before so I just couldn’t believe it!

    How did you feel when you got the part? Had you watched the film?

    Yes I had watched the film a few times and really enjoyed it. Like I say I just couldn’t believe I had been chosen and was going to be playing Zack Mooneyham and go on tour! It was crazy.

    How has the experience been?

    It’s been brilliant, I have loved it. I’ve been really lucky and have made life-long friends and it has been an experience I will never forget. I have learnt so much from some talented people and gained a lot of confidence and experience along the way.

    What do you hope to do next?

    I am starting secondary school in September so am really looking forward to that. I have just completed my grade 8 electric guitar [he was still 10 when he did the exam], which has also earned me UCAS points and just the other day found out the competition I came third in a worldwide guitar solo competition which Phil X – lead guitarist of Bon Jovi – so I was over the moon hearing that. How crazy having Bon Jovi’s guitarist private messaging you at 5 in the morning! Nuts! I was also awarded student of the year from the academy that I attend.

    The show has been well received and Hanley has been mentioned in numerous reviews: ‘Hanley Webb wows everyone with his incredible guitar playing. He is a confident and accomplished musician who is sure to take the music industry by storm in future.’ – The Reviews Hub.com; ‘I genuinely felt I was watching future big-name stars on that stage – particularly Hanley Webb as the guitar-toting songwriter Zack’ - Leigh-on-Sea.com; ‘Notably Hanley Webb, who plays lead guitarist Zack on the night, is truly a young Brian May in the making’ – groupleisureandtravel.com

    He also has a YouTube channel – search for Hanley Webb.