Award-winning rock musical next offering in Fredonia theatre series

Submitted Photo The cast of the Fredonia Department of Theatre and Dance production of "Spring Awakening" includes, counterclockwise from upper left, Jeff Kringer as Melchior, Michaela Tramuta as Wendla, Genevieve Ellis as Ilse, and Noah Barnes as Moritz. The Walter Gloor Mainstage Series event runs from April 6 to 14 in Marvel Theatre at the State University of New York at Fredonia. Because it centers on mature themes and includes sexual content and strong language, this production is recommended for adults only.

An award-winning Broadway musical that offers a powerful and frank look at the journey from adolescence to adulthood is the next offering in the Walter Gloor Mainstage Series at the State University of New York at Fredonia.

The Fredonia Department of Theatre and Dance will present six performances of the rock musical “Spring Awakening” from April 6 to 14 in Marvel Theatre on the Fredonia campus. Dates and performance times are April 6, 7, 12, 13 and 14 at 7:30 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee on April 8.

Because it centers on mature themes and includes sexual content and strong language, this production is recommended for adults only.

Theatre and Dance faculty member Jessica Hillman-McCord will direct the Mainstage production. She said “Spring Awakening” explores issues that are extremely relevant today.

“There is a message that has value to the moment,” the director said. “It looks at what happens when you don’t understand, respect and educate young people honestly.”

Set in a small German town in the 1890s, “Spring Awakening” follows a group of young men and women who struggle to find their way in a world where adults repress and dominate them.

The teens wonder about their changing feelings and long to have someone teach them more. In the classroom, they try to think outside of the restrictive box of traditional teaching. On all fronts, the young people are sternly rebuked, leading to tragic consequences.

“Sadly, these issues have not gone away,” Hillman-McCord said of the trials the characters face.

With lyrics and book by Steven Sater and music by Duncan Sheik, “Spring Awakening” debuted on Broadway in 2006. It is based on an 1891 play of the same title by German dramatist Frank Wedekind.

“It was an incredibly modern play when it was written in 1891, and it remains so” Hillman-McCord said. “The musical took the theme of teens struggling to figure out the world and created a really daring, modern work of art.”

The Sater/Sheik production was described as “an electrifying fusion of morality, sexuality and rock and roll” that went on to earn eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Entertainment Weekly praised it as “the most gorgeous Broadway score this decade.”

“It was a milestone on Broadway in terms of what a modern rock musical can be,” Hillman-McCord noted.

While “Spring Awakening” is set in late-19th century Germany, it features a rock music score. One of the strengths is the skillful manner in which these facts are juxtaposed. Hillman-McCord explained the setting emphasizes the restrictive world in which the characters live while the music represents the moments of escape from that world.

“The songs help spell out the feelings of these teens caught in a repressive society,” the director said. “The score is beautiful and incredibly evocative.”

The music to life will be brought to life on stage by a student pit band, which mixes rock band elements with strings. School of Music faculty member James Welch is the music director.

“We have a great band and an incredibly talented cast,” Hillman-McCord said.

More than 100 students are involved in this Mainstage production. Hillman-McCord said there is a “rock concert element” to the stage design.

“The design is really striking,” she said. “It’s not a traditional theater setup – it changes the physical relationship with the audience.”

For audience members interested in truly immersing themselves in the experience, there will be a limited number of non-traditional seats for each performance that are “closer to the action.” Contact the Campus Ticket Office at 673-3501 for more details.

The Faculty Student Association will offer snacks, light hors d’oeuvers, beer, wine, coffee and soft drinks at the Atrium Café, which is located by the entrance to Marvel Theatre. Service will begin one hour before curtain time and continue through the end of intermission at each event.

“Spring Awakening” is sponsored by Midtown Realty Company as part of the Lake Shore Savings Season. Tickets are available through the Fredonia Campus Ticket Office in the Williams Center and by phone at 673-3501 (toll free at 1-866-441-4928).