Rock musical Spring Awakening comes to UB's Center for the Arts

UB’s spring performance of controversial musical will be uncensored


Audiences at the Center for the Arts are about to be ‘Totally F*cked’ starting this week – and that’s exactly what UB’s cast of Spring Awakening wants.

The UB Department of Theatre and Dance will host the controversial Broadway hit Spring Awakening for its spring show. While other college casts may try to work around or censor parts of the performance, UB’s cast will be singing and acting as the show’s writers – Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater – intended. That means the audience will be shaking its heads along to unedited versions of the show’s most popular songs like “Totally F*cked” and “The B*tch of Living.”

Spring Awakening first appeared on Broadway in 2006 after a slew of workshops and a stint off-Broadway. It became one of the most popular rock musicals ever, winning eight Tony Awards, including Best New Musical. It was also the start to Glee stars Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff’s careers. And now, its the UB crew’s turn to explore the big topic the show tackles: teenage sexuality.

The show – set it 19th century Germany – covers everything from ‘the talk’ to homosexuality, child abuse, pregnancy, abortion and suicide. The subject matter may seem dark, but the show covers the issues that tend to plague adolescence – and it’s all set to an award-winning alternative rock score.

“It’s really not a typical ‘musical,’ but more of a rock opera,” said female lead Leah Berst, a sophomore music theatre major. “Anyone who enjoys modern rock music would really enjoy this show.”

Songs in Spring Awakening don’t move the plot along in the same way as in a traditional musical, rather, they serve almost as inner monologues in each character’s emotional journey and development.

The modern score sits juxtaposed to Germany in the 1800s. The show is based off German playwright’s Frank Wedekind’s show with the same title. Wedekind was ahead of his time, taking on the themes of sexual desires and curiosity.

Because UB’s production is not being censored, the cast, crew and production staff has taken the necessary precautions to make the show comfortable during rehearsals.

No one involved was surprised by its content.

“We have talked about the show a lot in advance of auditions,” said Nathan Matthews, a music theater professor and director of UB’s production of the show.

Due to the content, students had the option to decide not to participate in the production after their audition.

According to Sean Ryan, a junior music theatre major cast as Moritz Stiefel, one of the show’s main characters, the cast has been very supportive of one another.

“It makes it that much easier when you’re surrounded by nothing but positive vibes,” Ryan said.

Berst, who plays Wendla Bergmann, said the attitude and atmosphere of rehearsals make preparing the show enjoyable.

“The important part of dealing with characters such as those in Spring Awakening is finding the joy and happiness within them and bringing those areas of their personalities to light,” Berst said.

Although the content of the show touches on various controversial issues that encompass adolescent sexuality, Spring Awakening offers entertainment for a wide range of people, according the cast.

“[The show] is so beautifully written and has something in it for everyone to enjoy,” Ryan said.

The show is put in a rock concert style thanks to the music, set, costumes and lighting – like the original production.

“The set is inspired by Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” which really fits the ideas and music of the show,” Ryan said. “The dancing expresses the freedom and excitement that go against the restricted and rigid structure of the time period.”

There will be a talkback after two of the performances as a way to engage the audience about the show’s intense topics. The first will be on April 30, where members of the UB LGBTQ will accompany the cast. The second will be on May 1, where UB Counseling Services will accompany the cast.

Spring Awakening’s angst-ridden rock score will take over the CFA from April 23 to 26 and April 30 to May 3.

Rebecca Vincent is a staff writer and can be reached at