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BWW Student Center: The University of Utah Tops Off Their 'Season of Sin' with Spring Awakening!

Front, Jaron Barney as Melchior, Dylan MacDonald as Moritz, and Jackie Jensen as Wendla. Rear, Bob Nelson as The Adult Men and Sarah Shippobotham as The Adult Women.

In 1891, a German playwright by the name of Frank Wedekind penned the controversial play Spring Awakening. If the content, later adapted (opened on Broadway in 2006) by Stephen Sater and Duncan Sheik is controversial now, you can image how well the topics of teenage sexuality, masturbation, abortion, child abuse, rape, homosexuality and suicide played out at the turn of the century.

Wedekind's original was actually much darker, Sater says "In a way, his primary concern was to give this scabrous account of what was going on in society and how young people were unheard and the damage that did to them." An interesting thought, the kids who survive in this story grow up to become the parents of the Nazi's.

Now over 100 years later, the musical adaptation has found great success using the same topics and content, playing to the idea that when our young people are unheard the damage is real. Set in the turn of the century Germany (like the original) the sexual-awakening of its youth unfolds in a puritanical community but comes screeching into our era with its rock music, thus bridging this gap of 100 years and showcasing just how far we haven't come.

The Broadway version pits youth against authority and plays to the extremes. The adult characters are all portrayed by a single male and female actor, thus furthering the divide of "us against them" with all authority being represented by single actors. As the youth struggle to find answers to questions the adults are unwilling to discuss or entertain, they are left to find solutions themselves, often with poor results.

In an exciting move, Denny Berry (director) is adding her spin (look her up, she has quite the resume) to this version of Spring Awakening. "This show is exciting because it's going to be nothing like any other production of Spring Awakening people have ever seen. Berry and Alex Marshall have a really clear and unique take on the story, which is really exciting to be a part of. The choreography, staging and set are all completely original." says actor Jaron Barney who plays the lead role of Melchior.Director  Denny Berry

Denny expands on the underlining story that is Spring Awakening. "It draws the audience into the worlds of the characters as they strive to solve the problems that life has thrown at them in a sympathetic, human and entertaining way. The music is foot stomping, the stories are touching and I expect the audience to leave the theater changed for having participated in the two hours they will share with the ensemble and the band."

Par for the year, with the University of Utah's Theater Department Spring Awakening promises to wrap up the end of their "season of sin" with style. If you haven't guessed already, this production is for sure on the parental advisory list. But be careful with this caution, you don't want to shy away from this show because the content makes you uncomfortable. The whole point is to address the issues that are facing our youth and ignoring them - or our feelings about them - proves the point this show is trying to make. When we pretend that these issues don't exist or don't concern us, the problems don't go away, they grow more serious.

Spring Awakening is playing April 12-28, 2013, at The Babcock Theatre, located at 300 South and University Street (1400 East) in the Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre, lower level. Ticket prices are $15 for General Admission and can be obtained now by calling 801-581-7100; online at; or at the Performing Arts Box Office, located at Kingsbury Hall.

Photo Credits: Spencer Sandstrom.

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From This Author Megan Pedersen

Megan B. Gutierrez is a member of the American Theater Critics Association and is a theater lover from a suburb of Salt Lake City, Utah. (read more...)

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