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Tony Award® Winner “Spring Awakening” Opens in Raleigh on March 11th

The cast of the national tour of "Spring Awakening" (photo by Andy Snow)

The cast of the national tour of "Spring Awakening" (photo by Andy Snow)

Broadway Series South will present the PG-13-rated Tony Award®-winning rock musical Spring Awakening on March 11 and 12 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh, NC. Spring Awakening, which Entertainment Weekly has called “The most gorgeous Broadway score this decade,” is based on the 1891 German play Frühlings Erwachen by Frank Wedekind (1864-1918). Wedekind’s controversial coming-of-age story was originally banned because of its frank depiction of teenage sexuality, rape, child abuse, abortion, and suicide.

According to the tour’s producer, NETworks Presentations, LLC of Columbia, MD:

“Based on the 1891 Frank Wedekind play, the landmark musical is a stirring combination of sexuality, morality, and rock and roll that is captivating audiences across the nation like no other musical in years. Spring Awakening features an award-winning and evocative story with a score by Duncan Sheik, book and lyrics by Steven Sater, and original direction and choreography by Michael Mayer and Bill T. Jones, respectively.

“Broadway direction and choreography will be recreated [on tour] by Lucy Skilbeck and JoAnn M. Hunter. Set design is by Christine Jones, costume design by Susan Hilferty, lighting design by Kevin Adams, and sound design by Brian Ronan.

“Set against the backdrop of a repressive and provincial late 19th century Germany, Spring Awakening follows a group of young students as they navigate through teenage self-discovery and coming of age anxiety. A powerful celebration of youth and rebellion The New York Times raves, ‘Broadway may never be the same.’

“The Broadway production opened on Dec. 10, 2006 at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre. The original cast recording of Spring Awakening won the 2008 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album. Originally produced by Ira Pittelman, Tom Hulce, Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, and the Atlantic Theatre Co., the 2010-11 National Tour of Spring Awakening is produced by NETworks Presentations, LLC.

[WARNING:] Spring Awakening contains mature themes, sexual situations and strong language.”

Elizabeth Judd as Wendla and Christopher Wood as Melchior (photo by Andy Snow)

Elizabeth Judd as Wendla and Christopher Wood as Melchior (photo by Andy Snow)

“In 1999, I was beginning conversations with Michael Mayer about directing a film of Michael Cunningham’s novel, A Home at the End of the World,” recalls original Spring Awakening producer Tom Hulce, a University of North Carolina School of the Arts graduate who earned an Academy Award® nomination for playing the title role in Amadeus (1984). “We were talking about what we were working on, and he mentioned Spring Awakening. I was shocked: the Wedekind play was on a very short list of ideas that I was considering developing.

“My idea,” says Hulce, “was to adapt it into an opera. I asked Michael how they were approaching it, and he explained that they were going to keep the story in the 1890s in the small, provincial town, but that the songs would be in Duncan [Sheik]’s contemporary idiom.

“I loved the idea that the songs would give a contemporary articulation and exhilaration to these confused and repressed young people, and even suggest a possibility of hope unavailable to them,” says Hulce. “And when the songs were done these young people would have to button up again to their confusing, conservative lives, where they weren’t finding the kind of help and answers they needed. I thought the theatrical tension could be thrilling.”

After a number of workshop productions, starting in 2001, Spring Awakening opened Off-Broadway on June 15, 2006 at the Linda Gross Theater, where it played through Aug. 5, 2006. The show then made its Broadway debut, also directed by Michael Mayer and choreographed by Bill T. Jones, on Dec. 10, 2006 at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre, where it played for 859 performances before closing on Jan. 18, 2009. The show won eight 2007 Tony Awards®, including the Tonys for Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Book of a Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, and Best Choreography, plus four 2007 Drama Desk Awards, including Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Music, Outstanding Lyrics, and Outstanding Director of a Musical.

A motion-picture version of Spring Awakening is in development.

In the current touring production of Spring Awakening, produced by NETworks Presentations, LLC, the students with raging hormones and boundless curiosity about what’s happening to their bodies are played by Christopher Wood as the handsome, headstrong Melchior; Coby Getzug as his emotionally fragile best friend Moritz; Elizabeth Judd as Melchior’s first love Wendla; Courtney Markowitz as the sexually abused runaway-turned-Bohemian Ilse; Devon Stone as the urbane and witty Hanschen; Daniel Plimpton as the naive boy Ernst, whom the worldly Hanschen seduces; Jim Hogan as Georg, who has a monumental crush on his piano teacher Fraulein Grossenbustenhalter; Aliya Bowles as Martha; George E. Salazar as Otto, who has an oedipal complex; Emily Mest as Wendla’s best friend Thea; and Rachel Geisler as Martha’s best friend Anna.

Mark Poppleton portrays the show’s Adult Men, who include Melchior’s father Herr Gabor and Moritz’s father Herr Stiefel, plus various Teachers; and Sarah Kleeman plays the musical’s Adult Women, who include Melchior’s mother Fanny and Georg’s piano teacher Fraulein Grossenbustenhalter, plus others.

Spring Awakening producer Tom Hulce notes, “The feedback that we’ve had [from kids] has been remarkable. Kids have found one of a dozen different things in the play to be particularly meaningful to them, that give them either a hope they didn’t have before, or an understanding they didn’t have before, or an ability to talk to people that they didn’t have before.

“The statistics on teen suicide in gay populations is pretty shocking,” says Hulce. “And there has been a particular response to the character of Moritz because of his sexual confusion — in addition to his confusion about pretty much everything else. What we’ve heard is, ‘I thought I was alone. To see what he goes through and to understand that there are others who feel like this, instead of trying to end it all, I put on the album and dance.’ It’s so extraordinary to know that in a very particular way, this piece has the ability to shift someone’s experience.

“There’s also been a very moving response to the girl who’s being abused by her father,” Hulce notes. “It’s empowered people to speak out about their own experiences.”

Broadway Series South presents SPRING AWAKENING at 8 p.m. March 11 and 2 and 8 p.m. March 12 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.

TICKETS: $20-$53.

BOX OFFICE:

Progress Energy Center Box Office: 919/831-6060 or info@progressenergycenter.com (information only).

Ticketmaster: 800/745-3000, 919/834-4000, or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/1201887.

SHOW: http://www.progressenergycenter.com/event/spring-awakening-113.

PRESENTER: http://www.progressenergycenter.com/broadway-series-south.

VENUE: http://www.progressenergycenter.com/venue/memorial-auditorium.

DIRECTIONS: http://www.progressenergycenter.com/directions.

PARKING: http://www.progressenergycenter.com/parking.

OTHER LINKS:

The Musical: http://www.springawakening.com/ (official website), http://www.lortel.org/LLA_archive/index.cfm?search_by=show&id=4697 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), http://ibdb.com/show.php?id=448809 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1417099/ (Internet Movie Database).

NETworks Presentations, LLC: http://www.networksontour.com/ (official website).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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