West End star Ria Jones (Evita, Cats, Les Misérables, Sunset Boulevard) and Broadway powerhouse Justin Matthew Sargent (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, Rock of Ages) are helping launch the new music-themed children’s book, The Boy Who Wanted to Rock. Jones narrated the ten-minute-long audiobook version, while Sargent joined an all-star band to record a pair of companion rock songs to accompany the book’s release.
Written by music industry veteran David Weiser (Cats, Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera) for his five-year-old son, The Boy Who Wanted to Rock takes readers on a musical journey that encourages children to learn the ropes… and swing from the ceiling!
Guided by a cast of helpful and unlikely creatures, a young boy discovers that his inner monster is the key to learning and enjoying music. Beautifully illustrated by fellow musician Derek Lavoie, the story is a tribute to the inner child that sustains every rock‘n’roller.
“My initial vision was for the book to emphasise the importance of practice, and patience, enshrining the many virtues of delayed gratification,” said Weiser. “Mercifully, I came to my senses and abandoned that idea as utter nonsense. It dawned on me that our boy’s innocence and earnestness fuelled a kind of rock-power, that unnamed spark of creative joy that many of us in the music industry have chased in practice spaces and recording studios for decades. It’s the very thing that makes a kid, a kid.
“Our five-year-old boy is Thoreau’s ‘childlike mirthfulness’ come to life. He dances like there’s no one watching; he doesn’t know any other way. He sings with abandon, and sometimes, he roars. In the end, I thought that if he learns something from the book, wonderful, but above all else, I wanted this story to help ensure that he never forgets how to roar.”
Due to Covid-19 lockdowns, the audiobook and songs were recorded remotely, but that in no way diminished the joy and enthusiasm shared by the participants. “I’m so excited and proud to be part of this wonderful collaboration. Such a great idea to get children interested in the joy of music,“ Jones explained.
“I enjoyed recording the narration so much, bringing to life the wonderful characters I imagined in my head, and colouring the story with fun and energy that jumped off the page to me.”
“Ria recorded the narration at her home in London, nailed it in a single take,” Weiser elaborated. “Our son is convinced that Ria used ‘actual real magic’ to create the voices of the various creatures in the story, and I’m inclined to agree with him.”
“We had a blast recording the companion songs for this book,” said Sargent. “We really tried to rock out, while still appealing to a very young audience. I think they’ll dig it! What I love about this book is that the main characters learn the value of ideas like ‘practice makes perfect’ and ‘keep on trying, even if you fail’. All the while, they’re having fun in this rock and roll world that’s typically reserved for adults. This is the kind of book I want to read to my own rock and roll daughter!!”
Sargent was joined by Tim Quick (School of Rock, JCS Live on NBC) on guitar, Jamey Tate (JCS Live on NBC, David Benoit, Stan Kenton Orchestra) on drums, Roland Guerin (Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, Marcus Roberts) on bass, and by author Weiser on keys.
David Weiser has been the associate keyboard programmer on numerous Broadway, West End, touring and televised musicals, including NBC’s 2018 Jesus Christ Superstar, The Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Evita and Les Misérables. His credits also include work with artists like David Bowie, The Who and Brian Wilson.
The Boy Who Wanted to Rock is available now on Bookbaby Bookshop, and on Amazon in January. In recognition of the impact of Covid-19 on the theatre community, the author has pledged to donate $2 per book sold through Bookbaby to The Actors Fund, to help provide assistance for theatre workers who are currently unemployed due to the industry-wide shutdowns.
The songs and audiobook will be included in an album, available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and all major platforms in January. Illustrated versions of the audiobook and songs can be enjoyed on YouTube.