Cal State Long Beach University Players presentSpring Awakening: The Musical with book and lyrics by Steven Sater and music by Duncan Sheik, March 15 through March 30 in the Studio Theatre. Directed by Artistic Director Joanne Gordon, Spring Awakening is a raw and powerful explosion of adolescent angst and sexuality.
Based on the 1891 German play of the same name by Frank Wedekind, Spring Awakeningtells the story of stifled young people and repressive adults struggling to live and love in a world of structure and rules. As the adolescents approach adulthood, they must contend with challenges their parents never taught them to anticipate, from their first pangs of sexual desire to the overwhelming loneliness caused by a society that provides no outlet for original thoughts and feelings. Deep currents of longing and sensuality permeate Sater’s book, and Sheik’s at turns melancholy and rocking songs provide the young people with an emotional pressure valve to release the frenzy of emotions they must keep hidden inside.
Director Joanne Gordon helms Spring Awakening with an acknowledgement of the period juxtaposition that fueled Broadway and touring versions of the show, but with a deeper emphasis on the “internal and external” conflicts of the piece. Gordon draws inspiration from the scenic design, whose centerpiece is a “huge structure which is both jail and jungle gym, the two sides of their world…I’m trying to find my truth through those two parameters.” Adding more energy to production, says Gordon, is the sense that repression of the young “is an eternal problem.” Placing chorus members amongst the audience and staging in the round further enhance the resonance of the show’s themes with young performers and audiences by eliminating the fourth wall.
Spring Awakening is director Joanne Gordon’s final production as Artistic Director of California Repertory Company and Chair of the Department of Theatre Arts at CSULB. During her 25-year tenure at the helm of the department, Gordon has directed hundreds of graduate and undergraduate students in an array of plays, musicals, and original works, including two adaptations for the stage of the poetry of Charles Bukowski. Gordon’s professional accolades include five Drama-Logue Awards, a Los Angeles Critics Choice Award and being named "Best of the Year" by the Los Angeles Times. Her adaptation and production of Love, Bukowski was nominated for several awards by the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, which also conferred on Cal Rep the Polly Warfield Award. The crowning achievement of her years at Cal Rep was last fall’s Bukowski-Sondheim: A Work in Progress, an original compilation of poetry by Charles Bukowski and songs by Stephen Sondheim. On March 24, the CSULB Theatre Arts Department will celebrate Gordon’s career with JoGo A-Go-Go, a retirement fete and roast. For more info about the raucous evening of greatest hits performances, old friends, and good times, please call (562) 985-4500.
Spring Awakening opens Friday, March 15, and runs for 14 performances, closing on Saturday, March 30. Performances are Tuesday through Saturday at 8 pm with Saturday matinees at 2 pm on March 23 and 30. This production is in the Studio Theatre on the CSULB South Campus, accessible via West Campus Drive. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $12 for seniors and students (with valid ID). Parking is available next to the theater for $5. For tickets and information, please call (562) 985-5526 or visitwww.csulb.edu/depts/theatre.