Most adults would agree that during our teenage years, we’re faced with a lot of personal change. These changes challenge us, both internally and externally, and it’s in these years that we learn a lot about ourselves, and the people around us. The heartbreakingly beautiful musical Spring Awakening was first introduced to Broadway audiences in 2006, and since then its themes of rebellion, angst, sexuality and teenage growth have resonated with audiences worldwide, due to not only its lovely music, but its relatable storytelling.
The team at MLOC Productions are about to open their seven show run of Spring Awakening, and director/choreographer Angela Phillips has been hard at work for the last two years planning and building her vision for the show. “Spring Awakening is a story very close to my heart. I was first shown a scene by the original Broadway cast nine years ago by two students of mine, and I just fell in love with everything about it”, Phillips says. “I knew it was a show I wanted to direct, so I made the choice to never watch a performance in its entirety. I didn’t want my vision of the story influenced by other versions, and I’ve found that method has really worked for me during this joyful experience with MLOC. The icing on the cake is that those two students who first shared this extraordinary journey with me are playing our Martha and Hänschen, so it’s come full circle beautifully.” she remarks with adoration.
And it is with adoration that Phillips displays when speaking about her team. “I’ve worked with MLOC a few times before, and have always felt very supported and part of a very special group. It’s true community theatre, and everyone is so dedicated.” she says proudly. “MLOC have never produced a show like Spring Awakening before, and I honestly thought that my application to direct the show may be turned down, but that was further from the truth, Spring Awakening was welcomed with open arms by The Board, and I have been honoured to have been given the opportunity to tell this story.” she adds. “Once again, I have been fortunate to work with the talented Malcom Huddle as Musical Director. The vocals of the show are incredible, and I am constantly in awe of Malcom’s ability to make the score his own. Chris Ryan and Ashley Wilsnach, assistant director and assistant choreographer, have been so supportive of my vision. I have also been fortunate to work with Linton Wilkinson who is designing both the lighting and sound which are pivotal aspects of the creation of the show. Jamie Grima’s design work, from our own version of the logo, through to our cast photos and advertising, has been perfection.”
When it comes to speaking about her cast, Phillips wanted to encourage a trusting and supportive environment and rehearsal space, as some of the content in the show can be very emotionally heavy to work through, for even the most seasoned performers. “The whole cast had a love for Spring Awakening, and for many it was on their bucket list of shows to do.” she says. Phillips also took a unique approach when it came to the characterisation of her cast, which she found helped with some of the more tragic moments of the show. “At the first rehearsal I gave each cast member a journal, so they could write down thoughts before we blocked each scene, and they could also map out their character development. The cast have used their journals to write down research notes, scrapbook images they have drawn, things like that. Our Thea (Amelia Little) has had the hard task of portraying a character who accepts the sadness and despair her friends endure. Through thorough character development and research Amelia has been able to deliver a strong convincing portrayal of a young girl who will continue this cycle of abuse.” Phillips is very aware that while working through some of the scenes, emotions may be high. “It’s hard not to be emotional while blocking certain scenes because we all can relate to these characters and the situations that they find themselves in. Through these emotional times we have all supported one another.”
Throughout the rehearsal process, Phillips has found it tough to pinpoint a favourite moment from the show. “I have many favourite moments, so it is hard for me to narrow it down as our entire cast have worked so hard and are so fantastic. I have two moments that do make me smile though. The musical number Touch Me is beautiful, both vocally and visually. I choreographed the number very early in the rehearsal period and all cast members were open to dig deep and think about what it means to crave to be touched. The trust from day one that they established from both myself and each other has allowed them to explore the true meaning of the song. Another moment in the show that makes me smile is any time Liam Charleston, who plays Otto, sings. His vocals are pure joy.” she expresses. “As Spring Awakening has many dark and sad scenes it is very important to break this up with light, comical moments, and Sarah Somers and Dan Bellis do that with their portrayals of Headmaster Knochenbruch and Fräulein Knuppeldick. We have developed their roles as caricatures, exaggerated in order to create a comic or grotesque effect.” she adds. It is obvious that Phillips, while looking to break up the darker themes with some humour, isn’t shying away from the importance and impact these darker themes do have in society.
She further adds that the cast have taken initiative in raising awareness and funds for mental health, a theme prominent throughout the show. “MLOC Productions have partnered with Lightbox Productions and Oxagen Productions to raise money for Headspace. Headspace is a non-for-profit mental health organisation for youth. Both theatre companies have donated tickets to their upcoming shows to be raffled at Spring Awakening performances, with all proceeds going straight to Headspace. There will also be Headspace contact information and brochures available in the foyer. It is an initiative we are very excited to be part of and was organised by our lovely cast member Imogen Whittaker. We hope that other theatre companies take on board this idea, as often the subject matter we are performing is as confronting as it is beautiful.”
Phillips speaks with such pride when talking about MLOC’s Spring Awakening, and it’s clear her passion and love for the story has carried her on this journey which she has cherished thus far. “Intensity. Passion. Angst. Honesty. That’s what audiences can expect. Every performer on the stage is completely energised from the opening chord to their last sung note in The Song of Purple Summer. It is this raw energy of MLOC Productions’ Spring Awakening that will leave the audience wanting more.”
MLOC Productions’ Spring Awakening opens on Friday the 25th of May, and runs for 7 shows until Saturday the 2nd of June. Tickets available at https://www.trybooking.com/book/sessions?eid=350712