We were lucky enough to be able to talk with the director/choreographer of the ECC Musical Theatre’s production of Spring Awakening, Andy Bero, to find out how excited he is to bring Spring Awakening to the ECC stage, discuss the amazing and talented cast, and the process he has gone through to make this show come to life here at ECC. Andy’s made his directorial debut at ECC with ECC Musical Theatre’s 2017 production of Avenue Q. Andy holds a BFA in Musical Theatre from Millikin University as well as an MA in English and Drama Education from Northern Illinois University. He has performed in various Broadway touring productions including Jesus Christ Superstar and Wonderful Town as well as lead production vocalist aboard several Celebrity Cruise Ships. As a director, selected credits include Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor® Dreamcoat, Singin’ in the Rain, Shrek, Mary Poppins, and Noises Off.
Originally a German play by playwright Frank Wedekind, Spring Awakening is set in late 19th-century Germany, and is the story of teenagers discovering the inner and outer tumult of teenage sexuality. In 2006, it was turned into a rock musical with music by American singer-songwriter Duncan Sheik with a book and lyrics by Steven Sater. The original Broadway production won eight Tony® Awards, including Best Musical, Best Direction, Best Book, Best Score and Best Featured Actor. The original cast album also received a Grammy® award.
Spring Awakening is a show that most who know it absolutely love it and those who don’t might investigate the storyline before seeing it. It deals with challenging subjects, yet these are topics that young adults have and will always face. “The themes tackled throughout the production include the importance of honest communication during one’s sexual awakening, when consent is given and when consent is received, and the worlds men and women inhabit in public and private spaces,” says Andy about the show.
Andy has had a complicated relationship with Spring Awakening since its Broadway debut in 2006, “The script and its beautiful, haunting music just did not make sense to me.” However, Spring Awakening kept making its way into conversations so Andy took a more in depth look into the script and music and found the show to be “incredibly well written” and thus began the journey into the pre-production for ECC Musical Theatre’s production. To Andy the script, “became a puzzle, and our production crew worked to ensure that every piece of our show fit together. It’s an on-going process, yet I come into rehearsal everyday excited to tell this story.”
Spring Awakening takes you back in time to remind you what it felt like to be a teenager with all the hormones—except the audience gets to experience it in a repressive 19th-century town. We are dealing with teenage hormones during the Victorian era in this hit Broadway musical. We see main characters Melchior Gabor and Wendla Bergmann realize that they have crushes on one another and how they navigate through those feelings—both innocently and not so innocently. The audience will see the show through the marvelous set design by Pauline Oakley. The design is set up for theatre-in-the-round, with actors being within five feet of the audience—making the audience feel like they are a part of the action and not just onlookers. Even though the subjects are heavy, there is also a kind of playfulness to the show. There are moments for the audience to remember when they were 13-years-old and had their first crush, and the excitement that went along with it when you find out they “liked you back.” At the root of this show, the characters are teenagers learning the lessons of life that adults already know.
Spring Awakening deals with many heavy themes including sexuality, religion and the relationship between parent, child and authority. Andy hopes that through these themes the cast as well as the audience will be able to explore the question of, “can we develop and foster trust through difficult conversation?” One theme touched on is that of consent. Spring Awakening takes place in a time when women’s voices were not heard loudly; they did not have many rights and privileges which is most notably seen in the script through their lack of education. Women were not given the same opportunity to further their education unlike the men of the time. Young men in the show are given an opportunity to receive higher education, but are not treated with much respect by teachers or other adults. Their voices are not heard and often brushed aside when they try to stand up for something other than the status quo.
It was important to Andy to convey power and lack of power through the physicality of the actors. In light of the #MeToo movement, it was important for Andy to gain the trust and consent of his cast. Some of the storylines throughout the show are uncomfortable and can be challenging to discuss and he wanted to treat each cast member with the respect that he/she deserves in order for each of them to feel comfortable and feel like rehearsal is a safe space for them to come to everyday.
Part of what makes a great show and rehearsal so exciting boils down to casting. Andy says, “The cast is unbelievable! Not only is their talent ridiculous, but their dedication to telling this story is admirable. Our actors are eager and playful, which makes rehearsal nothing short of a wildly good time! We leave every night with a huge smiles on our faces!”
Spring Awakening’s second weekend of performances runs Friday, August 3 through Sunday, August 5. Friday and Saturday shows are at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets for the second weekend are selling quickly and the first weekend sold out, so be sure to get your tickets today by either visiting tickets.elgin.edu or call the Box Office at 847-622-0300.