Maybe you’ve seen a rock musical before, but you’ve never seen one quite like this.
Starcatcher Jerusalem Theater Company is bringing their English production of Spring Awakening to the Beit Mazya Theater this month. The musical follows a group of teenagers in 19th century Germany, who just want their voices to be heard. Spring Awakening premiered on Broadway in 2006 and is now experiencing a revival. Based on the 1891 Frank Wedekind play, and with music by Duncan Sheik, Spring Awakening is one-of-a-kind. The musical opens March 16 and runs for eight performances.
Director and choreographer Yaeli Greenblatt sat down with The Jerusalem Post to discuss the challenges and joys of community theater, rocking out in traditional 19th century garb, and the timeless tale of teenage angst.
Can you talk about the casting process? Basically, we advertise what show we’re doing and the casting is open.
We always have our regulars; people who have been doing this for years and love community theater.
But our cast right now is a good mix of our regulars and new people.
We just look for the best who can act, dance and sing. It’s quite a challenge, but I think we managed to find the best people. We start preparing months in advance, but the actual casting takes a few weeks.
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We start with an open call, then we have call-backs where we try to decide which people can fit which characters. This is a smaller cast than we usually have, since there’s no big chorus in this show. We have 15 actors. Everyone is a part of the plot and what’s happening.
How have rehearsals been going? Rehearsals are always crazy! They’ve been going really well though. This show is challenging to work on because there’s some very emotionally exhausting and challenging aspects to it. The actors take their work very seriously, so I can see the material affecting them.
It’s been an interesting process in that respect. We learned a lot of material in a short amount of time: choreography, staging, all those things. The actors are very enthusiastic, so the more they bring, the more we can do with the show. We started auditions in November, and in December we started rehearsals.
All in all, it’s been about three-anda- half months.
What’s been the biggest challenge for you as a director? The biggest challenge with community theater is that we’re a small company, made up of three people who basically do everything.
We do the music, design and choreography, but we also do everything else. All the production stuff and everything associated with putting on a show, we take care of also. It’s really challenging to do all of that juggling.
What’s your greatest joy as a director? We technically work toward putting the show on the stage, but for me, the greatest joy comes during rehearsals when I see something click. Seeing that happen in front of me always gets me really excited.
If you were going to describe ‘Spring Awakening’ to someone who knows nothing about it, how would you describe it? This show has been the hardest to describe of all the shows I’ve done. With A Chorus Line, I say that it’s about dancers. But with this one, it’s more complex. It’s about a group of teenagers in 19th century Germany, but when they break out into song, they’re suddenly in a contemporary world.
They sing rock music and ballads.
The really cool aspect of this musical is that it goes back and forth between two worlds: the conservative, closed 19th century world and that of the inner space of the children’s minds and emotions, which is more modern.
So are there a lot of costume changes? No, actually that’s what I love about the show. They sing rock music and jump around and dance, but they stay in their traditional, 19th century costumes, which really helps to create this effect of a contrast.
Do you have a favorite musical number or scene? I have a couple. One of my all time favorite musical numbers is “I Don’t Do Sadness/Blue Wind,” which is a duet between two of the characters. It’s just so beautiful and touching. I’ve been in love with that song for years. Other than that, I really like the song “Touch Me,” and the way that the staging came out in our production. The whole cast is on stage, and it came out really special and interesting.
It’s a song about longing.
What would you say is the take-home message for the audience? I think the show is ultimately about communication and the failure of that. These children want to be heard; they want to sound out their voices, which is where the songs come in. The songs give them a voice which isn’t heard in their own world, but we get to hear it. It’s what happens to them when their voices aren’t heard; when their parents, teachers, or anyone in the adult world doesn’t communicate with them. The adult world doesn’t explain things to them or treat them as equals. It takes this idea of being a teenager and such a universal way that we can see ourselves in their story. It takes place in the 19th century, but is somehow still very relevant to what teenagers experience today.For more information, or to purchase tickets, go to http://starcatcher.co.il.
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