Tony-Winning Musical at Arsht Center Takes on Young Love
“The more things change, the more they stay the same.” This old adage proves true for “Spring Awakening,” the Tony Award-winning musical that opens at Miami’s Arsht Center for the Performing Arts this week for a six-day run.
Based on an 1891 German play of the same title by Frank Wedekind that was banned in Germany for nearly a century due to its portrayal of taboo sexual themes (masturbation, abortion, rape, bondage, child abuse, and suicide), the musical bridges 19th century Germany and today with a contemporary alternative rock score by Duncan Sheik.
For one cast member, 20 year old Taylor Trensch, an openly gay actor originally from Tampa, the play is relevant more than a century later.
“I think what’s so remarkable is that the themes are just as relevant and important today. It was written 100 years ago and was so distant, but there isn’t really as big of a distance when you start to think about it. Maybe we haven’t advanced as much as we think as a society,” Trensch says.
The actor, who joined the touring company about a year ago, adds, “It’s funny now since I saw it [on Broadway] years ago and have been doing it now for a year, but it doesn’t seem strange now to go to work and teach the audiences about the ‘birds and the bees’. Sexual awakenings and puberty have been dealt with by young people throughout time, but we deal with it in an honest way. It’s a beautiful piece of art that everybody needs to see.”
While the production retains Wedekind’s original setting in a repressive German village, today’s world is juxtaposed with a long forgotten time as performers pull microphones out of their costumes and the sets are instantly transformed into a rock concert or nightclub.
Trensch feels the show’s music bridges the span with an accessible score that “you could listen to on the radio or your iPod, true pop or folk rock music.” At times “head-banging,” he feels the music effectively channels the angst and confusion the teenage characters are feeling.
Trensch’s character, Moritz, was a particular challenge for the young actor, who is taking leave from his drama studies at Elon College to tour with the show. Moritz, the subject of abuse from his classmates and school masters, eventually takes his own life.
“It’s crazy how recent puberty feels after doing this show eight times a week in this show. I definitely relate to my character, the misfit of the bunch, as my interests were different and I never conformed with my peers, Trensch explains. “Unlike today, Moritz didn’t have anywhere to go for help.”
The young actor is still amazed how little the issues young people face have changed over the years, but praises “Spring Awakening” as one of the most beautifully written and conceived shows to take on these universal themes.
“I feel so lucky and grateful to have had this experience, especially on a show that has been such a phenomenon,” he concludes.
Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Miami
Tuesday, May 11 – Sunday, May 16
Tickets $25-78 at ArshtCenter.org