One way to have that dreaded sex talk with your kid is to bring him or her to the Peacock Players’ rendition of Spring Awakening this weekend.
“I think it’s absolutely an avenue to have an awkward conversation,” said show director Keith Weirich in an interview before last week’s rehearsal. “I think students should see it, and I think they should see it with their parents.”
The play, often compared to Rent, takes place in late 19th-century Germany and tells of what happens when parents and teens don’t have these conversations. This lack of communication and dire consequences adds a Shakespearean quality to the work.
“It almost feels like a Romeo and Juliet,” Weirich said.
Needless to say, bad things happen.
Such bad things — rape, teen pregnancy, abortion and suicide, to name a few — that youth director Keith Weirich was pleasantly surprised at the positive response the company received to the project.
Well, he expected a positive response from the students. The ones interviewed a week and a half before the Nashua musical premiere reveled in the teen angst, the powerful message and the catchy, passionate rock music, written by Duncan Sheik (most known for his 1996 debut single, “Barely Breathing”).
“I see a lot of hope that there’s support for a project like this, even from the parents,” Weirich said. “The message of the story is incredibly powerful, and it’s got a really neat history.”
The original musical by Steven Sater went to Broadway in 2006. It’s based on the controversial German play Spring Awakening by Frank Wedekind, which was published in 1891 and banned for 100 years because of its frank portrayal of abortion, homosexuality, rape, child abuse and suicide. Despite this — or perhaps because of it — it earned a cult following.
“The demands of the show require a young cast. But because of the subject matter, theaters and communities won’t take to the project. I guess there was a synergy, timing-wise, this summer because a large class of our alumni had come back to do the show,” Weirich said.
Peacock Players had done the play version about five years ago. (The musical wasn’t available just yet.) The company had special interest in the piece because one of their own, Nashua native Alexandra Socha, had taken over for Lea Michele (from Glee) in the original Broadway version in 2008.
“She was placed in the show about a month after it won eight Tonys. She was a 17-year-old kid launched in the hottest Broadway show in years. We flocked to go see it. When I saw it, I knew it was definitely something I was going to look at and see if we could ever do,” Weirich said. (The Broadway version contained some partial nudity, but Weirich doesn’t think it was necessary to the story and cut it out of this version.)
Despite it being period, Weirich and the cast think it’s incredibly accessible because of seeming time changes between the play’s dialogue and music.
“The way the dialogue is written in the world of the play is not like our language. It’s period,” said Taylor Morrow, a to-be University of New Hampshire sophomore who plays a lead character, Melchior. “But as soon as you break into song, the lyrics make reference to the 21st century. … And the teen angst comes right out.”
The musical scenes are like mini rock concerts. The lighting changes, and the actors jump on chairs, flail arms, scream, sing and swear. (Some of the song are likely why the play’s controversial; in iTunes, a good portion are labeled “explicit,” with names like “Totally F---ed.”)
“The words are really representative of their [the characters’] thoughts, and the lines lend themselves to the emotion,” said Trisha Mahoney, 18, of Nashua shortly before a show chorus rehearsal. “They’re the most played songs on my iPod right now.”
This production is unique for the Players, also because, for the first time in a while, they invited auditionees who were older than 18, which is how 22-year-old Jam McCann, a recent UNH grad, came back to act and sing.
Morrow and Alex Giggey (who plays Moritz) said they’d never been challenged quite like this. (Giggey joked that after some scenes, he watched kitten videos to get out of character.)
“Without a question, we’re the state’s leading youth company. And these students are the cream of the crop,” Weirich said. “Almost every lead in the show is a New Hampshire Theatre Award winner or a Top 3 nom. … We always have good shows. This one’s extraordinary.”
As seen in the July 31, 2014 issue of the Hippo.