Musical focuses on dark side of teenage sexuality
STOKE Youth Musical Theatre Company's last production was about murder and cannibalism.
Their next deals with teenage sex, abortion, rape, child abuse, homosexuality and suicide.
From left, Melissa Potts (Wendla), Sam O'Rourke (Melchior), Elliot Clay (Moritz) and Lisa Olivant (Ilse) Picture: Steve Bould
In other words, the group are following up their acclaimed production of Sweeney Todd with the rock musical Spring Awakening.
The show is based on the controversial 1891 play by Frank Wedekind, whose explicit portrayal of adolescent angst and sexuality was initially banned in his native Germany.
The musical version is a bold choice for the local company. They are believed to be the first junior group in the region to tackle the show.
"The content suggests a modern play, but it was written in the 1890s, the Victorian era," says director Craig Armstrong.
"Spring Awakening deals with issues that every generation of teenagers has gone through in one form or another.
"It's about how adults have always tried to influence the decisions teenagers make, and the tragic consequences of parents failing to understand their children."
But because of the themes explored in Spring Awakening, only youngsters aged 16 and over will be appearing in the musical.
A cast of nearly 20 will be taking part in the "brilliant, but controversial" show which had its Broadway debut in 2006 and won no fewer than eight Tony Awards.
Set in a small Germany town near the end of the 19th century, Spring Awakening is about a group of schoolfriends coping with adolescence in an atmosphere of repression and hypocrisy. Sam O'Rourke stars as the handsome and charismatic Melchior, who has learned about the birds and bees from books, and Melissa Potts is Wendla, who falls in love with Melchior.
Elliot Clay plays the insecure Moritz, and Lisa Olivant is Ilse, who runs away from an abusive home to embrace a Bohemian lifestyle.
The male adults in the show are played by Ian Birkin, and the grown-up women are played by Rachel Millar.
"Although it's quite tragic, there are sequences that could only have been done in a comedic way," says Craig. "There are some laugh out loud moments."
With Steve Williams as music director, the show features numbers by Duncan Sheik and Steven Slater. "It has a great rock indie score," says Craig. "The cast go into the numbers as if breaking out of the confines of parental control.
"What teachers or parents say goes, but when the music starts the teenagers can be themselves."
Craig says he saw the London production of Spring Awakening three times and the audience reaction was ecstatic on each occasion. "I am very, very excited about this production," he says.
Spring Awakening is at the Stoke-on-Trent Rep from March 23 to 26 at 7.30pm, with Saturday matinee at 2.30pm. Tel 01782 616486.