Rock of ages: Teen characters take the stage in ‘Spring Awakening’ at Gallery Players

Rock of ages: Teen characters take the stage in ‘Spring Awakening’ at Gallery Players
Spring forward: The youngsters in the rock musical “Spring Awakening” are eager to explore their sexuality, while their parents (shown in silhouette) prefer to keep them in the dark.
Photo by Julianne McShane

Parents just don’t understand.

A rock musical coming to Park Slope this week will dramatize what kids know across the land, showing the generation gap as a village where adults are stuck in the 1890s, but their rock music-loving spawn live in the present day. This version of “Spring Awakening,” opening at Gallery Players on May 18, highlights the eternal chasm between parents and their offspring through live music, according to its director.

“The rock music is a metaphor for the way that parents just don’t understand their kids,” said Nick Brennan. “The music represents the way the kids are trying to communicate to themselves and their parents about what’s happening to them, because the parents aren’t on their level — it’s a generational difference.”

The musical, based on an 1891 play by Frank Wedekind and given a rock score by Duncan Sheik in 2006, follows a pack of teenagers in a religious rural village who take matters into their own hands (sometimes literally) when their parents refuse to discuss the birds and the bees, the director said.

“As these kids are hitting puberty and going through their sexual awakening, they’re in 1890s Christian Germany, which in terms of sexual thought was a very oppressive place,” he said. “Some of these parents have told their children that the stork brings the baby.”

In the Gallery Players production, the kids form a band, and some of the characters — who are almost all played by actors in their late teens or early 20s — play live music on stage, giving the show the feel of a rock concert, Brennan said. The young thespians play acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, piano, drums, and the violin, all while dressed in modern-day threads.

“We’re using all kinds of rock sounds, so it’s going to have a little touch of the 1890s, but it’s going to feel very modern,” he said.

The songs are only performed by the youngsters, the director said. The parents — all of them played by just two actors — are stuck with regular speech, because the music symbolizes the conversations about sexuality they are trying to avoid. The adult actors also dress in 19th century garb.

The coming-of-age show will have the feel of a concert, but the play has plenty of drama — the young characters deal with gun violence, sexual harassment, and abortion, issues that keep the more than century-old story relevant to today’s audiences, the director said.

“We all go through this, everybody goes through the same thing, everybody goes through that body change,” he said. “Even though it takes place in the 1890s, it’s very 2019.”

“Spring Awakening” at Gallery Players (199 14th St. between Fourth and Fifth avenues in Park Slope, (718) 595–0547, www.galleryplayers.com). May 18–June 9; Thu–Fri at 8 p.m.; Sat, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sun at 3 p.m. $30 ($20 seniors and kids under 12).

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@schnepsmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Kids bop: The young characters in “Spring Awakening,” opening at Gallery Players on May 18, wear modern-day outfits and sing rock ballads, while their parents wear 19th-century garb and speak in prose.
Photo by Julianne McShane

More from Around New York