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U.Va Drama Department aims to exhilarate audience with 'Spring Awakening'

Controversial Tony Award-winning play explores adolescence, sexuality; production opens Thursday

In its adaptation of the Tony Award-winning musical Spring Awakening, the University’s Drama Department has created an electrifying blend of rock ‘n’ roll and messy adolescent sexual awakening. The show follows a group of young teenagers in late-19th century Germany struggling to come to terms with their growing sexuality while the adults in their lives simultaneously try to stifle their adolescent urges.

“The adults of the show, with a couple of small exceptions, fail tremendously in the job of preparing their children for the adult world,” said fourth-year College student Daniel Prillaman, who plays the intelligent, charming Melchior — the lead male adolescent role in the production. “They teach them improperly, they don’t teach them at all, they don’t allow them to grow, and because of that, the lives of the children fall apart when they cannot stand up to iron will of the adults.”

This lack of guidance reflects the production’s often controversial and unorthodox subject matter, including plotlines addressing rape, suicide and homosexuality. Although there are often racy scenes and weighty topics incorporated in the show, most college students will have no trouble relating to the play’s themes of attempting to understand yourself, making your own choices and rebellion.

“We had to be really vigilant to do these scenes justice and really try to convey what the characters are feeling,” said fourth-year College student Emma Lord, who plays Wendla, Melchior’s love interest, in the show. “I’ve never done anything quite this emotionally or physically demanding.”

Despite the emotional depth required to portray her character, Lord said she was most intimidated by the role’s dance and combat scenes, a revelation that hints at the exciting action to come in the show.

“[It was challenging] incorporating the divide between the world of the play and the world of the songs,” Prillaman said. “As opposed to a normal musical, where the songs traditionally advance the plot of the story, the songs in this show are separate, and instead serve as inner monologues for the each of the characters.”

As with any show, overcoming these challenges has the potential to lead to a stunning performance and a lot of fun for everyone involved in the production.

“This is probably the most fun show I’ve ever been a part of, partially because I’ve loved this show since I was 15, but mostly because everyone in the cast is talented and cohesive and our director, Bob Chapel, is amazing and encouraging and has an awesome vision for this show,” Lord said.

Chapel, who has been a University Drama professor since 1990, said the emotionally-charged production would not have been possible without the set, costume and lights designers.

“I love shows that are blatantly theatrical, and this show is the epitome of ‘theatricality’ — using minimal sets, relying on the audience’s imagination, conveying a message through songs — with rather ambiguous lyrics — and the creation of a visually stunning show,” he said.

Spring Awakening promises to be full of emotionally dynamic characters, great rock music and wonderfully staged musical numbers — choreographed by fourth-year College student Ali Stoner.

“The chance to finally live out everyone’s secret dream of being a rock-star is something I relish every night during rehearsals,” Prillaman said. “The music and script are simply fantastic, and the company only makes it even better.”


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