Duncan Sheik's Spring Awakening Expected to Blossom in NYC Spring 2003

News   Duncan Sheik's Spring Awakening Expected to Blossom in NYC Spring 2003 The new Duncan Sheik-Steven Sater musical retelling of Wedekind's Spring Awakening, the expressionist work about teenagers, tyrannical parents, sex and violence, is aiming toward a spring 2003 Off-Broadway staging by Roundabout Theatre Company, director Michael Mayer told Playbill On-Line.

Director Michael Mayer.
Director Michael Mayer. (Photo by Photo by Aubrey Reuben)

The new Duncan Sheik-Steven Sater musical retelling of Wedekind's Spring Awakening, the expressionist work about teenagers, tyrannical parents, sex and violence, is aiming toward a spring 2003 Off-Broadway staging by Roundabout Theatre Company, director Michael Mayer told Playbill On-Line.

The musical, which has a pop flavor and is not through composed, was given a workshop by the Roundabout Theatre Company in late June 2001. Mayer (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Side Man), directed a cast headed up by Michael McElroy and Gavin Kreel.

"It's dark," Mayer said Feb 6. "It's Wedekind. It's a very literal adaptation about those three kids, and coming of age sexually. It's like a cautionary tale about what happens to your kids if you don't talk to them about sex. The music is very haunting. It's pop. It's not sung-through. It jumps between Germany in the 19th century and the United States now, it's really stylistic."

The show has lyrics and libretto by Steven Sater and music by pop star Duncan Sheik, and was developed at the Sundance Theatre in Utah. It also received a workshop at the Roundabout Theatre Company in late 2000.

Mayer said the show is expected to play at Roundabout's new Off-Broadway venue in the former American Place Theatre space. A spokesperson for the Roundabout previously told Playbill On-Line in 2001 that the show was indeed on the production plan for the respected nonprofit that operates Broadway and Off-Broadway spaces. Mayer is an associate director with Roundabout. Roundabout has not yet announced its 2002-2003 season. *

Carla Bianco, Roger Bart, Marilyn Caskey and Jose Llana took part in the Sundance workshop. Sater's spokesperson previously said the musical boasts 12 primary roles.

Spring Awakening was written by German playwright Frank Wedekind in 1891. Concerning the advent of puberty in children, the drama was considered controversial and not produced until 1906. Wedekind is best known for his equally controversial "Lulu" plays.

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Playwright Steven Sater and pop music sensation Duncan Sheik seem to enjoy working together. A couple seasons ago, the two collaborated on Umbrage at Off-Off-Broadway's HERE. The play was written by Sater, and Sheik contributing music to the show.

Since then, the duo have teamed on a CD, "Phantom Moon." The acoustic album features all original songs, music by Shiek, lyrics by Sater.

Both Sater and Sheik are Buddhists. They struck up a friendship during chanting sessions. Sater eventually mentioned that a play of his, Umbrage, was scheduled to open at HERE. Sheik expressed an interest.

Umbrage tells of an unlikely friendship between Ulysses, a reclusive factory worker trying to come to terms with his ravaged life, and Smith, a young, would-be musician. Sheik was intrigued by the musical aspect of the work and asked to read the play. Soon Sater and Sheik were collaborating on music for the piece.

Singer-songwriter Sheik burst onto the music scene a couple years back with the single "Barely Breathing."

Sater's Umbrage won the Steppenwolf New Play Prize. His Asylum was recently presented by Naked Angels. Other plays include Carbondale Dreams and Perfect for You Doll.

— By Kenneth Jones
and Robert Simonson