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By BTL Staff
“Spring Awakening,” the edgy, pop/rock musical that took Broadway by storm and captured the 2007 Tony Award for Best Musical, sizzles with immediacy today thanks to the raw and electrifying pop score. This timeless coming-of-age tale runs through March 1 on the Second Stage at the Baldwin Theatre, 415 S. Lafayette in downtown Royal Oak.
With intertwining narratives, a group of teens wrestle with their journey from adolescence into adulthood against the backdrop of the oppressive cultural and social mores of provincial 19th-century Germany. The show, based on the 1891 controversial play of the same name, addresses sensitive and still-relevant subjects such as rape, sexuality, abuse and suicide.
The young people at the center of the story are Melchior (Jeffrey Bobick of Royal Oak), handsome, world-wise and a promising student; Wendla (Kryssy Becker of Auburn Hills), innocent and naive; and Moritz (Nick Bringardner of Farmington Hills), who is struggling with school and being consumed by sexual thoughts. The characters’ inner demons, relationships with each other, and the imposing male and female authority figures (all played by two actors, Dan Rose of Berkley and Rachel Biber of Huntington Woods, respectively) send their lives on a downward spiral.
Director Matthew Miga of Ferndale describes Spring Awakening as a type of bildungsroman – a story that focuses on a character’s growth from adolescence to adulthood – with one important difference. “Unlike other typical bildungsroman,” says Miga, “this is a community coming-of-age story. This is not simply the journey of a single character, but of all 11 youth. Their stories are so intertwined that a line from the original German text referred to them as flowers growing in a garden. This truly is the tale of the planting, growth, pruning, death and flourishing of 11 beautiful seeds in one garden controlled by two gardeners.”
Miga extended the idea of community beyond the story and into his directing process. “My approach to this show has been to give the cast many liberties that most actors never receive: input with costumes and characterizations, as well as freedom with musical staging. As a result, I’m learning new things every day. Although my original vision of this show has changed through this process, that’s what has been so exciting. I love the idea of having a vision but adapting it to the needs and ideas of other people.”
Miga further adapted his artistic vision to downplay elements that had shocked audiences in the original Broadway production, which had pushed boundaries in nudity, language and themes. Instead, Miga is putting a stronger emphasis on the emotional stories of the characters. “I feel the language and story are more important than anything to shock an audience. Ultimately, it is the words and lives of these characters that will shock and awe, challenging audiences to think about how we raise our youth,” he says, adding that the play’s content probably “pales in comparison with things today’s youth may see on prime-time television or in PG-13 movies.”
Based on Frank Wedekind’s 1891 play “Fruhlings Erwachen (Spring’s Awakening),” which was first performed in 1906, “Spring Awakening,” with book and lyrics by Steven Sater and music by Duncan Sheik, opened Dec. 10, 2006 on Broadway at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre and ran for 859 performances, closing Jan. 18, 2009. The show won eight 2007 Tony Awards including Best Musical. The production featured Lea Michele of television’s “Glee” as Wendla.
The show runs approximately two hours including one intermission. “Spring Awakening” is rated M for its mature/sexual content and language, and is most appropriate for audiences 17 years of age and older.
Advance tickets for performances are $18. Tickets may be purchased online at http://www.stagecrafters.org (online handling fees apply) or by phone at 248-541-6430 using Visa or MasterCard. All seats are reserved. If shows have not sold out, tickets can be purchased at the box office one hour prior to the performance for an additional $2 per ticket. Students are encouraged to attend Half-Price Student Night on Feb. 19 and ask about RUSH tickets which may be available for at-the-door purchase for Friday performances. “Spring Awakening” is sponsored by Vibe Credit Union.
Shows run 8 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and 2 p.m. on Sundays through March 1.