Storm, Stress and Spring Awakening | Playbill

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Special Features Storm, Stress and Spring Awakening "Against all odds and against my wildest imaginings, we find ourselves rehearsing for Broadway," director Michael Mayer said Oct. 16, at a rehearsal-studio press event for the new youth rock musical Spring Awakening.

From Top: Duncan Sheik; The cast of Spring Awakening rehearses; Director Michael Mayer; Stephen Spinella (Left) and cast rehearse for Spring Awakening.
From Top: Duncan Sheik; The cast of Spring Awakening rehearses; Director Michael Mayer; Stephen Spinella (Left) and cast rehearse for Spring Awakening. Photo by Aubrey Reuben

The musical will jump to Broadway in November following its popular and critically acclaimed Off-Broadway run this past summer at the Atlantic Theatre Company.

Based on Frank Wedekind's play of the same name, the Duncan Sheik-Steven Sater musical depicts how a dozen young people make their way through the thrilling, complicated, confusing and mysterious time of their sexual awakening.

Two adult actors join a cast of youths to tell a tale of teens lost in ignorance and fear—a repressive atmosphere fostered by parents, teachers and clergy.

"I never conceived of this as a Broadway show," Mayer told us. "I've been working on it for eight years and the whole time I had absolute belief in the show as being something really important and beautiful and exciting and completely innovative. But you had told me this would end up on Broadway, I would have said 'you're out of your mind.' It always seemed like a non-profit theatre baby. But it just connects with people in such a way that I would have never anticipated."

Three songs were performed ("The Bitch of Living," "My Junk Is You," "The Song of Purple Summer") with a three piece band that included Duncan Sheik himself on guitar. Mayer also confessed to the press that minimal changes have been made to the staging in order to adjust to the Eugene O'Neill's larger proscenium stage, as well as some additional changes to the score.

"The Guilty Ones," a new duet, has replaced "There Once was a Pirate," but Mayer said "Pirate" will still be recorded on the show's cast album, which will be released in early December. And though the entire youth ensemble has remained intact, Stephen Spinella (Angels in America) and Christine Estabrook ("Desperate Housewives") have joined the cast to play the numerous "adult" roles.

"I was asked if I wanted to be in it," Stephen Spinella told us. "Frank [Wood] couldn't do it. He had a previous engagement. So Michael Mayer called and asked me to do it. They sent me the script. I didn't see it when it was Off-Broadway but I thought the script was incredibly powerful. Not just the script, but the lyrics. And I thought that I someone who put together these kind of ideas for 14- and 15-year-olds to sing, that was something worth being in. "

"I was in L.A. and I got a call from my agent that there was interest in this and whether I interested in going to New York," Christine Estabrook said. "Tom Hulce [the producer] called me and played the music for me over the phone. And he was so excited. And I've known him for many, many years and he is such a presence of inspiration and I was really ready to play a lot of different characters. It was such a challenge, but I was ready to do it."

And did the rest of the cast, which includes 16- and 17-year-olds, ever expect that they would performing on Broadway only six months ago?

"Last year, I was just doing a show at my high school," said 16-year-old Lilli Cooper, who is currently majoring in drama at LaGuardia Arts High School. "I would have never imagined being on Broadway a year ago. It's amazing and such a surprise and I'm very blessed."

"It's amazing," said Lea Michele, who plays the lead female role of Wendla. "I've been a part of the show for six years doing workshops and readings. It's been a dream for all of us to get the show to a Broadway house. We had an amazing run at the Atlantic. It was the perfect starting point for us. Thanks to them, we can take Spring Awakening to the next step." (Before it was announced that Spring Awakening would move to Broadway, Michele was expected to play Eponine in the Broadway revival of Les Miz.)

But will Spring Awakening—which deals with sex, teen suicide, abortion, violence and child abuse—find a mass Broadway audience?

"The play itself was banned in the U.S. for years," Lea Michele continued, "But I judge everything by my 70-year old music teacher. She's old school and she trained Julie Andrews back in the day. If she could sit through the show and enjoy it, anyone can. It's hard to not love Spring Awakening, with the amazing songs. She said it was so beautifully done that in spite of anything that could make anyone feel uncomfortable, you could not help but enjoy it."

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