Through the end of February, the historic Argyle Theatre in Babylon is putting on the first professional Long Island production of Spring Awakening, the Tony Award-winning rock musical about the complicated journey from adolescence to adulthood during a time when adolescents weren’t free to ask questions about their changing bodies and sexuality.
Set in late-19th-century Germany, the familiar themes of teenage angst and sensuality resonate strongly with today’s youth.
“It’s a raw, rock musical. It’s very provocative,” said Emily Nash, who plays Ilse, a victim of abuse at the hands of her father.
“The music is ultra contemporary. However the book, the actual lines we’re saying on the page, sound like they’re from another time,” Nash continued. “It’s this really cool dichotomy between what we’re speaking and singing.”
The musical by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater uses rock and folk music to tell the story originally told by the controversial German expressionist play by Frank Wedekind. Singer-songwriter Sheik is best known for the 1996 hit song “Barely Breathing.”
Alex Grayson, who plays Melchior, describes his character as having a free mind. “He wants to pursue all these things that his soul is yearning for. He’s a rebellious character in this oppressive society.”
“The play was written in the late 1800s by Frank Wedekind and all of these story lines are still true in 2019, which is very frightening,” said David Thomas Cronin, who portrays Moritz. “It is definitely an emotional overload, but I think it’s a conversation starter.”
“The most important moment for me in the show is…[when] my character sings the song ‘Don’t Do Sadness,'” Cronin said. “Up until that point, everyone in the show has someone to relate to…and Moritz does not, so it’s about him being alone and what that means for him.”
Corrie Farbstein plays Wendla, a role originated by Lea Michele on Broadway. “She’s taking in a lot of information and her curiosity grows with each moment that people are not giving her answers,” Farbstein said about her character.
“Seeing the stories on stage, the vignettes of what different characters are going through, is an empowering thing for a person to see if they have felt like they’re the only one.”
Tyler Belo, who has been cast as Otto, feels lucky to be part of the first professional production of Spring Awakening on Long Island. “It’s really important for people to come see this show,” he said. “It’s a musical you have to be fully engaged with to fully receive the message. It’s deep.”
Spring Awakening debuted on Broadway in 2006. The wildly successful show continued for two years and enjoyed a brief revival in 2015 featuring deaf actors from Deaf West Theatre and interpretation for deaf-blind theatregoers. The 2018 NBC series about a high-school theatre program Rise heavily featured songs and scenes from Spring Awakening in the plot, which was loosely based on a true story.
The Argyle Theatre in Babylon was recently renovated to restore its former glory. The theatre seats 500 and employs members of Actors’ Equity, the same union to which Broadway stars belong.
Director Matthew Earnest, choreographer Sara Brians and musical director Jonathan Brenner head up The Argyle’s production. Click here to view the full cast and creative team.
View the video above for featured interviews with Emily Nash, Alex Grayson, David Thomas Cronin, Corrie Farbstein and Tyler Belo.
See Spring Awakening at The Argyle through Feb. 24. For tickets and more information, visit www.ArgyleTheatre.com.
—With reporting by Waldo Cabrera