The rendition of “Spring Awakening,” performed by students in the University of Maine School of Performing Arts, brought thunderous applause from the crowd gathered at Hauck Auditorium for its debut last Friday night. Audience members laughed and cried as they experienced the story’s emotional roller coaster ride.
“Spring Awakening” is a Broadway musical based off of a German play by the same name, which was written in 1891. The story takes place in an overly conservative German town in the 19th century and depicts an adolescent couple and their friends as they struggle to understand their developing sexual feelings while being discouraged by their parents and adults in the town. Melchior, one of the main characters of the play, summed it up perfectly in one scene as being a war on the “parentocracy of education.”
In 2006, the play was turned into a musical by Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik, who added contemporary rock and pop elements to reflect the attitudes of the adolescents. This interpretation creates an interesting dynamic. Traditional scenes, with the vibe of 19th-century Germany, are regularly interrupted by lively, well-choreographed performances that reflect the characters’ emotions. This switch between old and modern vibes is exceptionally smooth, and the way everyone on stage acts in unison as they dance and sing is impressive.
“Spring Awakening” director Tom Mikotowicz, a professor of theatre at UMaine, relishes the opportunity to bring the show to a new audience.
“[Spring Awakening] is one of my favorites,” he said. “When I heard it was available to do, I grabbed it as soon as I could.”
Although the auditorium seats 514, only three-fourths of the auditorium was full on opening night, Mikotowicz feels that attendance will rise: “We’ll be turning people away next week. Word of mouth will bring the crowds.”
Mikotowicz brought a host of talented people together, including both undergraduate and graduate students. After casting ran throughout November, the group returned to begin rehearsals on Jan. 14, practicing nearly every day until the first performance.
First-year music education student Hope Milne played the part of Wendla, who in the story falls in love with Melchior.
“I didn’t know the story until I got cast. My mom actually told me about it,” Milne said.
“I like it. It speaks about a lot of issues that don’t really get talked about, which makes it interesting,” she continued, referring to the controversial subjects of homosexuality and abortion that the play raises.
A highlight for many was the performance by UMaine alumnus Garrett Rollins, who received a number of accolades from audience members after the show. Rollins played Moritz, Melchior’s troubled friend.
“When Tom [Mikotowicz] called me and said we were doing ‘Spring Awakening,’ I was instantly on board. It’s my all-time favorite. That I get to play Moritz is a bonus,” Rollins said. “Moritz is such an interesting character, with so many facets and problems. I never knew how lost someone can get trying to find [how to play] a character.”
Mikotowicz feels that shows like this are great for UMaine and should be more widely publicized.
“People always go to see the big names, but I guarantee that if they saw [Spring Awakening], they would say, ‘Wow this is great!’”
The smash-hit musical will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 21-23, with 2 p.m. showings on Feb. 17 and Feb. 24. Admission is $15 or free with a student MaineCard.