The Elizabethtown College production of “Spring Awakening” opened Thursday, Oct. 27. This musical was originally produced in 2006 and is the most modern musical students have performed at Etown to date.
The musical was chosen by the play selecting committee. Two students, one junior and one senior, are elected to the committee each year. The other members are the theater department faculty: Michael Swanson, Richard Wolf-Spencer and Theresa Mastrobuono.
Each year, this committee chooses a crowd pleaser, a cutting edge play and either a modern or period classic. “Spring Awakening” is this year’s crowd pleaser. A crowd pleaser is a musical which is popular and will interest a wide range of people.
The committee reviewed a list of potential crowd pleasers submitted to them in last November. This list contained about thirty musicals suggested by both students and faculty. After at least two committee members read each one, the committee had a first vote and narrowed the original list down to a short list of about 12 to 20 musicals.
After each committee member read all these musicals, they considered a number of factors and then voted for “Spring Awakening.” Swanson felt this musical was chosen because it is popular among students and was a Broadway hit in 2006. He also thought it was chosen because of the universal themes it explores.
The musical is based on a play of the same title written in 1891 by Frank Wedekind. It takes place in Germany during the 1890s when society was oppressive and morally conservative. It centers around a group of teenagers as they go through puberty and explore sexual themes.
“There’s a lot of things that might make people go ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh,’ but at the same time, there’s a lot of humor in the truth of it,” junior cast member Amber Mangabat said. “As people, I think most of us have gone through one or more of the things these characters have gone through.”
The musical adaptation of the play features punk rock music. Director Dr. Michael Swanson, who is also the Director of Theatre and Dance and an associate professor of theatre at Etown, feels this genre represents rebellion and how the teenagers in the musical are expressing ideas ahead of their time.
Sophomore cast member Emily Seratch believes the characters are transported to 2006 when they sing these rock pieces.
“The music in it and the themes in it are just unlike anything that you’ll see in most other musicals,” first-year cast member Dylan Warner said. “The songs you hear in the show sound like you could hear them on the radio.”
The musical also contains more dancing than recent musicals have. The last Etown production to have this amount of dancing was “Cabaret” in 2010.
“The dances themselves are so freeing,” Seratch said. “We’re jumping around. We’re yelling. We’re running. We’re skipping. We’re just expressing ourselves, so it’s a lot of fun to do, and I’m sure it’s a lot of fun to watch.”
The musical was a learning experience for the student actors.
“I have a dance background and so do a lot of the girls,” junior cast member Katherine Campbell said. “What was really great was that the boys don’t have dance backgrounds, and they had more dancing than us, so it was really fantastic to watch them from the beginning.”
Senior cast member Christopher Budnicki and Mangabat played all the adult men and women, respectively. They did not sing or dance as much as the other actors, but they still gained experience from the performance.
“The biggest thing I learned, as far as acting goes, was changing between characters and being five different people. I know that happens a lot in repertory theater. Repertory theater sounds kind of cool now,” Mangabat said.
“Spring Awakening” will continue to show Nov. 3 and 4 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 6 at 2 p.m. in the Tempest Theatre. Tickets are 10 dollars and can be pre-ordered by calling (717) 361-1170 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.