Friday, October 26, 2012

EPAC presents moving, energetic 'Spring Awakening'

EPAC's "Spring Awakening" cast peforms "The Bitch of Living."

Josh Kirwin and Kate-Lynn Scheib portray Melchior and Wendla in "Spring Awakening."

The cast of the moving, spirited musical "Spring Awakening" at EPAC 

I have seen the musical “Spring Awakening” off-Broadway, on Broadway and on tour.

But as I watched the final dress-rehearsal performance of the Ephrata Performing Arts Center’s “Spring Awakening” Wednesday night, I felt as if I were seeing the show for the first time. My heart soared to watch this show that I’m so crazy about – performed by an energetic, talented young cast – on the stage of a community theater I love so much.

The show is funny, frank and touching. I laughed and cried on Wednesday as if I’d never seen the show before – as if it were all the kind of wonderful surprise I felt the first time I saw the show off-Broadway.

Director Ed Fernandez, his talented and energetic cast (with many faces new to EPAC) and the creative team have brought a moving, funny, exuberant and beautiful piece of art to life on the stage of the Sharadin Bigler Theatre. Whether you’ve never seen “Spring Awakening,” or whether you’ve seen it numerous times, you’ll be transported by EPAC’s production.

The musical is based on an 1891 play by Frank Wedekind, which was controversial for its time, as it explored German teenagers’ struggles with their sexuality and the knowledge of it denied them by the adults in their lives. “Spring Awakening,” the musical, takes this serious subject matter and injects it with energy through its modern, rock score.

It’s fun to remember that you’ll be seeing the musical on a local stage on which Broadway’s original Melchior Gabor, Lancaster County native Jonathan Groff, performed in such shows as “Honk” and “Bat Boy: The Musical.” But this cast makes this show completely its own; even if you’ve seen the show on Broadway, you have NOT seen what EPAC can do with the show. And you want to see that – believe me!!

The music, by Duncan Sheik – remember his 1996 hit “Barely Breathing”? – with lyrics by (book-writer) Steven Sater, is marvelous. I own the soundtrack, and have listened to those songs countless times; it’s so great to hear them performed by a great pit orchestra and wonderful voices in this cast, and see them given new life with great choreography. The set, lighting, sound and costume design bring the show into full bloom.

The leads, Josh Kirwin as Melchior; Vince Fazzolari as Moritz, and Kate-Lynn Scheib as Wendla, are wonderful – but, frankly, you're going to love the whole cast!! Fantastic job by all! Special kudos to Susan Barber and Larry Gessler, who play all of the adult characters who influence the young people’s lives.

A caution: “Spring Awakening” is for mature audiences only. Many aspects of teen sexuality are explored in a frank and honest way in this show. There is a bit of partial nudity. And there’s one song filled with a pretty strong curse word.

But if you’re interested in seeing a show that makes you think; that explores issues from the year 1891 that we’re still arguing over during this political season of 2012; that makes you care about its characters, and helps you see these issues from a variety of points of view – this musical is for you. It will rock your world.

Thanks to Green Mountain Cyclery; Blue Ridge Communications; John Matusek, and Steve Sellers for sponsoring the show, and to The Olde Lincoln House for hosting – and Dave Dierwechter and Marcia Stoner for sponsoring – the opening-night party.

You only have until Nov. 10 to see this amazing show, on stage at the Sharadin Bigler Theatre; don’t miss your chance. Call 733-7966, or visit the EPAC Web site for information and tickets.

                   –  Merv Wright

Monday, October 22, 2012

Don't sleep through your chance to see "Spring Awakening" at EPAC!

The cast of “Spring Awakening” at EPAC is ready to make this show its own!

Josh Kirwin and Kate-Lynn Scheib star as Melchior and Wendla in EPAC's "Spring Awakening." 

The original Melchior and Wendla: Jonathan Groff (EPAC veteran!) and Lea Michele starred in "Spring Awakening" on Broadway

'Spring Awakening' will rock EPAC

Ephrata Performing Arts Center's production of the spirited, moving rock musical "Spring Awakening" -- opening Thursday at the Sharadin Bigler Theatre -- has such special significance for the theater. 

It wasn't so very long ago that Lancaster County native Jonathan Groff trod the boards at EPAC, in such shows as "Honk" and "Batboy." When Jonathan went to New York to practice his craft, "Spring Awakening" was the show that really launched his career -- and that of "Glee" star (and Jonathan's BFF) Lea Michele.

Jonathan has continued to perform in New York, in London's West End, on the TV shows "Glee" and "Boss," and in films such as "The Conspirator." 

On Thursday, a great young cast will make the show its own at EPAC!

You can learn more about the show by listening to the "Around the Wood Stove" podcast about it, courtesy of Wood Stove House in Lancaster. EPAC's Artistic Director (and "Spring Awakening" director) Edward R. Fernandez and Josh Kirwin (who plays Melchior in the musical) talk about this edgy show and its challenges.

You can also get a sneak preview of EPAC's production by listening to two songs from the show -- "Touch Me" and "The Song of Purple Summer" -- performed by the cast at Park City last week.

Of the upcoming EPAC production, Jonathan Groff said: "It means so much to me that a theater that gave me a chance to creatively spread my wings while I was growing up in Lancaster is producing the show that changed my life and started my career in New York."

There will be more about this show on the EPAC Blog later this week.

Do NOT sleep through your chance to see "Spring Awakening" right here in Ephrata. Visit the Web site or call (717) 733-7966 for tickets. The show runs Thursday through Nov. 10.

-- Merv Wright