UW-Green Bay Theatre and Dance and UW-Green Bay Music will present the musical Spring Awakening Nov. 20-22 at the University Theatre in Theatre Hall.
Winner of eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, the production is a pop/rock musical adaptation of Frank Wedekind’s 1891 expressionist play about teenage rebellion and sexual discovery. Spring Awakening is rated R, for strong language and adult content. It is recommended for mature audiences.
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“Spring Awakening is a very unique musical,” said UW-Green Bay Associate Prof. John Mariano, who is directing the show. “It premiered on Broadway in 2006 and proceeded to win eight Tony awards. It’s a musical based on a somewhat obscure play from 1890. It’s a play that deals very frankly and very honestly with adolescent sexuality and a lot of other adolescent problems, including teenage suicide. And the kind of graphic nature of it, especially in 1890, led to it kind of being banned everywhere.”
It’s an interesting dynamic for the show, said student Erin Sunisa, who plays Wendla.
“They bring a lot of heavy issues, and sometimes it can be quite jarring,” Sunisa said. “But it opens up a great discussion for audience members to discuss after the musical.”
Spring Awakening blends the old and the new in interesting ways, Mariano said.
“And the contemporary musical,” he said, “the twist they put on this old play that really made it interesting, is that whenever the characters sing they kind of step out of that late 19th century world and into a very contemporary, concert-like world. The music is all contemporary pop music like alt rock music.”
Sunisa enjoys the dichotomy, she said.
“It’s been very interesting to have both feet in two separate worlds going on,” Sunisa said. “You kind of have to think in a different mindset when coming into this musical.”
Audiences will be able to relate to the show, Mariano said.
“Adolescence is still what it’s always been, still full of confusion and all of the problems that go along with it — so the play has held up very, very well,” he said. “It’s adapted somewhat by the playwrights in the contemporary version, but it’s still pretty much his play, boosted by this contemporary score.”
Added Assistant Prof. Courtney Sherman, the show’s musical director:
“It’s essentially going back and forth between a really powerful piece of theatre, a play, and being at an awesome rock concert — so you get sort of the best of both worlds rolled together in one performance experience,” she said. “And I think that that’s fantastic and it will be really, really thrilling for audiences.”