WHEN: May 22 to June 1, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 8 PM; Sunday, 1 PM
WHERE: Becton Theatre, Fairleigh Dickinson University, 960 River Road, Teaneck
TICKETS: $27.50, seniors and students $24
201.569.7710 or www.garagetheatre.org
Please be advised there is strong language and sexual situations
It’s Germany, 1891. The beautiful young Wendla explores her body and asks her mother where babies come from. Elsewhere, the brilliant and fearless young Melchior defends his buddy Moritz, a boy so traumatized by puberty he can’t concentrate on anything. One afternoon in the woods, Wendla and Melchior discover a desire unlike anything they’ve ever felt.
Spring Awakening, the 1891 play by Frank Wedekind, was banned in Germany for many years for its frank discussion of rape, abortion and homosexuality. In 2007, the musical version got eight Tony Awards.
"It's so amazing that the issues that he was dealing with in 1891 are still relevant to teenagers today," says Tenafly's Michael Bias, founder and artistic/producing director of the Garage Theatre Group, who is also directing one of the first professional New Jersey productions of this acclaimed, much-discussed musical at Fairleigh Dickinson University's Becton Theatre in Teaneck. "Things haven't changed much," Bias says. "The feeling of isolation. Dealing with an authoritative school system."
One thing that has improved: More and better information about sex is available to today's high school students than to the four hapless pupils at a 19th-century German gymnasium (Anthony Crouchelli of New Milford, Bright Koles of Ridgefield Park, Michael Schwartz of Haworth, Noa Avital of Teaneck) who come into their own spring awakening armed only with old wives' tales.
Apart from the provocative subject matter, "Spring Awakening" drew Bias because of its alt-rock score by Steven Sater (who also wrote the book) and Duncan Sheik. The show, which boasts 13 actors and a four-piece band doing songs with titles like "Touch Me" and "The Word of Your Body," is stylistically far removed from the cookie-cutter show-biz sound that is so prevalent on Broadway.
While the story is still set in 1890s Germany, the characters come downstage to sing songs directly to the audience, precisely in the manner of an arena rock show. "I've gone so far as, when they're singing their numbers, they have wireless hand mikes, rather than the lavalieres [microphones] that are taped to their cheeks," Bias says. "The songs are done as rock-and-roll songs, the way you would do a rock performance in 2014."
Cast includes Osborne Focht (The Capeman, Sound of Music) as Adult Man, Marci Elyn Schein (So Big: The Musical) Anthony Crouchelli (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer National Tour, Step Up 3) as Melchior Gabor, Chris Jehnert (Hairspray National Tour) as Ernst, along with Jacob Ariel, Bridget Kohles, Ariel Nicholson, Zara Zeigerman, Maya Golan, Tabby Spina, Shannon Anderson, Noa Golan, Noa Avital, Sofia Ben-Hur, Mike Schwartz, and CJ Jerkovich. Michael Bias directs.