URBANA — Described as a high-energy rock musical exploring adolescents' struggles with sexuality, "Spring Awakening" will open Thursday evening at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.
The University of Illinois Department of Theatre production is directed by New York-based Austin Regan, who worked closely with Michael Mayer, director of the original Broadway production.
Music direction is by Kent Conrad and choreography by Philip Johnston.
Based on Frank Wedekind's controversial, late 19th-century German play, the Broadway production of "Spring Awakening" opened in late 2006, winning eight awards, among them best musical, best book of a musical and best original score at the 2007 Tony Awards.
The show addresses the restraints of teenage sexuality and the characters' struggles with accepting tradition over experimentation. While some are able to handle their sexual fixations confined by Victorian-era morality, others rebel and discover the mysteries, frustration, fears and tragedies that accompany sexual awakening.
The 19th-century dialogue and contemporary rock score of the musical allow the music to break tradition and transport the characters into a more modern setting.
Regan said with the UI production he dealt with the challenge of transporting to contemporary times the traditional themes.
"With all of my designers, we've been really going back to the text, and we're trying to figure out our own way that really seems to fit, in our minds, in 2013," he said in a news release. "I wanted to see if I could find a new way of doing it that wasn't just using (Mayer's) ideas from the original production."
The UI production of "Spring Awakening" in Krannert Center's Colwell Playhouse creates an intimate setting in which the actors engage with the audience as they express their characters' inner realities, Regan said.
By incorporating into the production more technical elements including intense theatrical lighting, screen projections and multi-level set, Regan said he hopes to differentiate his production but remain true to the themes and experiences presented in the original production.
The UI's "Spring Awakenings" features a cast of undergraduates and graduate students in theater, among them Christopher Terrell Brown, an Urbana native who plays Hanschen. Brown is a junior in the UI's bachelor's of fine arts degree acting program.
If you go
What: University of Illinois Department of Theatre presents "Spring Awakening," with book by Steve Sater and music by Duncan Sheik, after Frank Wedekind's late 19th-century German play. Directed by Austin Regan, with music direction by Kent Conrad and choreography by Philip Johnston.
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday and April 18-20 and 3 p.m. April 21.
Where: Colwell Playhouse, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, 500 S. Goodwin Ave., U.
Tickets: $16 for adults, $15 for senior citizens and students and $10 for UI students and youths. Tickets are two for the price of one on Thursdays.
Information: 333-6280 or http://www.krannertcenter.com . Also, a "meet-up" in Krannert lobby with the cast and production staff will follow opening-night performance, and a free "talkback" will be offered Saturday.
Note: The play is recommended for mature audiences.