While a late 19th-century German play might not be at the top of every college student’s summer priority list, the cast of Pasadena City College’s summer musical has been wrestling with one for weeks.
This Friday the work will come to life as the PCC Theater Department debuts “Spring Awakening,” the hit Broadway musical based on Frank Wedekind’s 1891 play. Originally mounted in 2006 in a production that launched “Glee” star Lea Michele’s career, the musical won 8 Tony Awards and has been produced around the world.
PCC’s production is directed by Karen Benjamin, a member of the performing arts faculty and longtime instructor of PCC’s musical theater workshop. For Benjamin, the blending of a classic story with an updated score makes the musical a perfect outlet for PCC students’ creativity — and their emotional experience. “The show has such a legacy, but it’s so edgy and hip, and its got these very deep, intense emotions running through it,” she says. “It's not surprising so many college-aged students relate to this musical.”
The plot, which traces the consequences of a group of young peoples’ passage into adulthood, highlights on the price of ignorance and the fascinating confusion of teenagers’ burgeoning sexuality. It’s also an emotional roller coaster. While Benjamin expanded the cast slightly to incorporate overwhelming interest from the student body — more than 100 people auditioned for the musical, more than any other show at PCC — she needed two leads that would be ready for a challenge. She found them in Edgar Khatchatrian, who plays the rebellious and intelligent Melchior Gabor, and Brittany Coleman, who portrays Wendla Bergmann, a sheltered young woman eager to learn more about the world.
To prepare the young actors for some of the most difficult scenes, Benjamin held a daylong rehearsal with just the two leads and herself, so they could address any uncomfortable moments. The stakes were high, as the play includes some “intense moments that might make some audience members uncomfortable” from the audience, she says. Benjamin’s concerns that the actors would be overwhelmed were unfounded: “They took to it like it was nothing,” she says. “They see the discipline that goes into this, and they know how difficult it is and the amount of work it takes.
“Their maturity and willingness to get into these roles really says something about PCC.”
"Spring Awakening" opens Friday, July 15, at 8 p.m. and plays through Saturday, July 30. Performances are on Thursday, Friday, and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with 2 p.m. matinees Saturday. Tickets: $15 General, $10 PCC students/staff and seniors, cash only at the PCC Box Office. Please note: Children under age 14 not recommended. More info available on the PCC website.
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