“Spring Awakening” and its mature themes originated with a 19th century German play.

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Edgy musical at Beckwith

Published 10:41pm Tuesday, April 10, 2012

“The most explosive new musical since ‘Rent’” debuts in southwest Michigan this weekend at Beckwith Theatre.
“Spring Awakening” garnered 11 nominations in 2007 and won eight Tony Awards on Broadway, including “Best Musical,” for an 1892 German play by Frank Wedekind.
Duncan Sheik’s musical adaptation mines the repressive 19th century for source material for a theater-shaking, foot-stomping rock musical.
What Director Paul Mow calls a “roller-coaster cautionary tale” recalls a time when ”children were seen but never heard, when the playwright’s work itself was banned from the stage due to its exploration of taboo subjects (but) sexuality and gender, the questioning of one’s own faith and moral codes, emotional or physical abuse, fear of authority, abortion and suicide are topics that have never been more important than today.
“It’s provocative, but there’s no nudity,” he said.
“Spring Awakening’s” timeless story revolves around self-discovery and budding sexuality seen through the eyes of three teens.
A tenor, Mow, of St. Joseph, spent five years on the New York City Opera roster.
He also enjoyed several engagements at Carnegie Hall. He teaches voice at Southwestern Michigan College, Lake Michigan College and Citadel Dance and Music Center in Benton Harbor.
He assembled a high-caliber cast with performers as young as 15 from Lakeshore High School, Brandywine High School in Niles and St. Joseph High School. Lauren Glynn, 19, an SMC freshman, is from Decatur. August Garritano, 22, of Niles, an SMC social science major, is a former Young American.
Heidi Ferris provides music direction, with choreography by Aura Ankli.
The set, like nothing seen before at Beckwith, symbolically shows differing levels on which children and adults find themselves.
“The idea,” Mow said, “is that without true dialogue on these issues, children are ‘thrown to the lions’ to figure out life on their own as best they can. We see the adults condescend, preach and castigate from on high, causing a rift between the children and their feared authority.”
Mow, David Glynn, Jonny Reinhardt and Lloyd Whitmyer designed the set, with costumes by Michelle Flaherty, lighting by Whitmyer and sound design by Reinhardt.

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