JAKE Sharp has spent the last four years sharing a stage with a bunch of children - and he couldn’t be more delighted.

Jake plays Dewey Finn, the failed rock musician who takes a job teaching music at a posh prep school in the musical School of Rock which is currently at Manchester’s Palace Theatre.

“The reason Dewey is so addictive to play is that you are allowed to follow childish instincts and basically behave like a big kid. I’ve got to say I don’t exactly struggle with that,” laughed Jake ,who has previously played the role in London’s West End.

“Actually I’m scared that one day I might be doing something serious like Shakespeare and I’ll suddenly throw out the ‘rock horns’. I think Dewey’s ingrained in me for life.”

Featuring a score by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, the stage show is based on the hit movie which featured Jack Black as Dewey.

Jake with the cast of School of Rock

Jake with the cast of School of Rock

“People do want to see bit of Jack Black in the show, especially if they are massive fans of movie,” said Jake. “And he is so good in the film that I think you need to have a nod to him. But at no point has it ever been discussed whether I should make Dewey more or less Jack Black.

“It’s not to be honest much of stretch to be like him,” Jake said. “I’m pretty similar in physique and appearance. People do ask ‘what did you have to do to make yourself look as unkempt as Dewey?’ and I basically say I got up! This is what I look like. I think I’ve got a similar mentality too. I can’t quite believe I get the chance to be a big kid every night.”

Ironically Jake trained as a teacher before a career on stage beckoned.

“I think I must be a lifelong method actor,” he joked. “Thinking about it I probably should have behaved like Dewey in the classroom. That would have saved me the student loans I’m still paying back.”

Throughout our conversation, there is one recurrent theme which underlies much of what Jake has to say - his pride in the youngsters he shares the stage with every night.

Jake with the cast of School of Rock

Jake with the cast of School of Rock

“What they have to take on every night is unbelievable,” he said. “Some of them are only nine. When I was that age I can’t remember even being able to function. I say to them you are annoying me, you’re all really nice but are annoying that you’ve got such a talent.

“When I was their age I was very shy. I could never had been one of the kids in the show now. I was probably more like one of the characters who was painfully shy and into rock music but didn’t have confidence to do drama. I didn’t go on stage until I was in my 20s.”

Jake believes School of Rock is the perfect antidote to these Covid-affected times.

“It gives everyone a little bit of hope,” he said. “You see the talent and positivity in these youngsters and it acts as respite It’s also a show that champions live music and the beauty of learning instruments and playing together in a band - all things we’ve not been able to do in a while. It’s a celebration of what we’ve missed.”

LET’S ROCK: Jake Sharp on stage in School of Rock

LET’S ROCK: Jake Sharp on stage in School of Rock

Audiences may be forgiven for thinking that the youngsters are old hands at performing but many of them have not come through a traditional stage school background.

“The majority of the kids had not done things before being cast for this show,” said Jake, “The skill set required is very different from a traditional musical. We need 12-year-olds who can play like rock gods.

“Because they are so good you can forget how young they are. It’s not like they are in school assembly playing a little tune. They are playing like a rock band and doing guitar solos that I have no idea how to do and I’ve been playing guitar for 15 years. They are amazing.”

Dewey is both a mentally and physically demanding role - so much so that Jake shares duties with Alex Tomkins.

“For majority of the show it’s just you and 12 12-year-olds,” said Jake, “so have to be there to support them. But actually they are miles more talented than me.

“You still feel real pride every time we get to the Battle of the Bands at the end of the show and that sound the audience is hearing is just me and the kids playing guitar, drums and bass - that’s a very cool thing.”

ROCK ON: Jake as Dewey and his proteges in School of Rock

ROCK ON: Jake as Dewey and his proteges in School of Rock

School of Rock has become a part of Jake’s life but it’s also been a family business. His brother was in the initial West End run of the show and for a spell both brothers were in the show together.

“There has never been a UK-based School of Rock that has not had a Sharp in it,” he said.

After Manchester, the show will continue to tour the country until August, so how will Jake feel when the curtain comes down on that last performance?

“I suspect it will be very surreal,” he said. “When the show came to an end in the West End I thought that was it and then we’ve got the chance to take it on tour.

“It has been a big part of my life. I can’t quite imagine me not being in it but I know me knees and vocal chords will thank me when I’ve had a few weeks of not doing it.”

School of Rock, Palace Theatre, Manchester, until Saturday, January 15. Details from www.atgtickets.com.