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Arts & Music

19th century, modern world collide in sexy 'Spring Awakening'


Published:   |   Updated: July 18, 2013 at 01:46 AM

Sex and rock and roll as entertainment. That's nothing new.

But the Tony Award-winning musical "Spring Awakening" broke the mold in 2007 with its raw portrayal of the consequences of sexual repression of 19th century youth. Juxtaposed with a contemporary rock score, the play garnered eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

Now, the groundbreaking musical drama, based on the once-banned 1891 German play by Frank Wedekind, will close out the summer season at St. Petersburg's freeFall Theatre, starring St. Petersburg native Rachel Potter from Broadway's "Evita" and "The Addams Family."

The show is set in the late 1800s, but the music and movement is contemporary, with characters breaking from scenes to pull out microphones and sing and dance.

"It's like two different worlds colliding into one," choreographer Megan Morgan of Tampa said.

The choreography lends a natural, "pedestrian" look to the transition from 19th century dialogue to modern music and movement, she said.

Known for bringing a different viewpoint to popular shows (think their production of "Cabaret"), freeFall audiences can expect something new when the lights go down, director Eric Davis said.

"We want them to come and see it in an unexpected way," Davis said.

The show will be performed in the round, with the audience immersed in the budding angst of youth who don't quite understand what's happening with their bodies, and who can't get any straight answer from the adults in their lives.

The consequences of their imposed ignorance is tragic; relationships are destroyed when they discover what's been kept from them.

The pace is nonstop, cast members said.

"There is always something to watch," actor Scott Daniel said. "It's almost like a circus, there's so much going on."

Griffeth Whitehurst plays Georg - the character originated on Broadway by Skylar Astin of recent "Pitch Perfect" fame. His character, "as most of them are," is sexually distressed, he said.

"I really want to get with my piano teacher," he said of his character.

Daniel's character, Hanschen, is the exception. Confident and a "predator," Hanschen pushes things "just to see how far he can go."

Despite the late 19th century setting, the show is "ridiculously relevant" to issues youths face today, such as abortion, abuse and suicide, Daniel said.

And though it may not be your grandmother's idea of a Broadway performance, if audiences are on the fence about it because of the subject matter, they're missing the point, community outreach director Mathew McGee said.

"The goal is to open a dialogue with the audience," McGee said. "It will make you think, it will make you excited and it may make you want to see it again."

'SPRING AWAKENING'

When: 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: freeFall Theatre, 6099 Central Ave., St. Petersburg

Tickets: $37; www.freefalltheatre.com; for mature audiences

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