Spring Awakening is a rock musical with music by Duncan Sheik and a book and lyrics by Steven Sater. It is based on the 1891 German play Spring Awakening by Frank Wedekind. Set in late 19th-century Germany, the musical tells the story of teenagers discovering the inner and outer tumult of teenage sexuality.
The winner of eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Spring Awakening is an electrifying fusion of morality, sexuality and rock and roll that is exhilarating audiences across the world like no other musical in years.
TP spoke to director Julia Grace, who started her interview with admitting “I have a confession to make, I am not one of those directors who has loved Spring Awakening since high school where my musical experiences totalled How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and Oklahoma, nor has it been on my bucket list to direct, and I most certainly did not know every word of every song. That is until just recently when Ben, our producer pitched it to me. Now I go to bed with, ‘Mama Who Bore Me’, on loop and wake up with, ‘I Believe’. I brush my teeth to, ‘Left Behind’, and wash dishes to, ‘The Bitch of Living’. I drive down Lygon Street proclaiming I, ‘Don’t Do Sadness’, and frequently tease musical director, David Barrell, by asking if we’ll rehearse, ‘Purple Rain’ tonight. I am thoroughly engulfed with the music created by Sheik and Sater and it’s been an absolute joy to work on with this cast”
When dealing with the heavy and sensitive themes within the show, the production team turned to the staff at RMIT. “Ben Andrews the producer and I attended a talk with intimacy coordinator Ita O’Brien hosted by MEAA and we have put those practices into our rehearsal process. One of the other fantastic things about this being a university production is that all the students participating have access to RMIT’s free counselling services”
Describing the rehearsal room as irreverent, collaborative and hardworking, Grace was very sure of what she was looking for to fill her larger than normal cast. “It is one thing to be able belt out these beautiful songs, but we wanted to find performers that would create an authentic interpretation of the characters.”
“We have a cast of 18. They’ve been an open, receptive, generous cast, and willing to try anything. We wanted to add an ensemble for more students to get involved in the show. The demographic is diverse – RMIT does not have a Performing Arts course, which means we have students in this show doing Social Work, Software Engineering and Accounting. They have all come together through a love of theatre, performing and this wonderful musical.”
Speaking about the challenges of putting this production together, one of the biggest issues was the venue, the RMIT Kaleide Theatre. “The show is a culmination of a LOT of hard work from extremely talented people, and some ingenious solutions to put on a show of this scale in what is a very intimate theatre not quite built for musical theatre. As a theatre director it has been a learning curve implementing multiple disciplines – music, choreography and balancing these moving parts. Luckily I have an amazing team who made the process a smooth one.” says Grace.
She also took the advice given to her by her mentor, the late Sheldon Patinkin, who “constantly hammered into us “It is better to be an arsehole than chickensh*t” which means, instead of worrying about getting things wrong, you connect to your instinct and let that guide you to truth.”
Whist she knows that the audience will love every second of the show, she is particularly excited for the ensemble numbers. “The strength of the ensemble singing together especially “Totally F#*cked” is an absolute highlight”
RMIT’s Spring Awakening is on from 13th March through until 16th March at RMIT Kaleide Theatre, RMIT Building 8 Level 2, 360 Swanston Street, Melbourne.
Spring Awakening contains material pertaining to situations including coarse language, singing, sex scenes, incest, sexual assault, abortion, and suicide. Parental supervision is recommended for audience members 15 and under.
Tickets are available from https://www.trybooking.com/book/event?eid=462793