Members of the Spring Awakening cast begin to rehearse their choreographed routine on Thursday, February 14, 2019, in the Black Box Theatre at Zoellner Arts Center. The Spring Awakening production received Best Musical at the Tony Awards in 2007. (Jake Martin/B&W Staff)

‘Spring Awakening’ documents a journey from adolescence to adulthood


The Department of Theatre began preparations for the spring musical “Spring Awakening.” 

The Tony award-winning musical is a coming of age story, detailing the journey of a group of students living in 19th century Germany as they venture from adolescence to adulthood.

Accompanied by a rock and roll music score, the new classic features characters that confront issues of sexuality, religion and family dynamics, among others.

Making his Lehigh University directorial debut in “Spring Awakening,” Bill Whitney is excited to bring the musical to campus. Previously serving as the music director for past Lehigh productions, Whitney is especially pleased to be taking on the role of both director and music director in the production.

Although Whitney was not involved in the show selection process, he believes the show has a relation to the modern cultural climate. Featuring themes of significant relevance, Whitney said the show has a lot of resonance right now.

“My goal is that we tell a really compelling story and this musical has a very interesting story to tell,” Whitney said.

He said he hopes the show will be thought-provoking and will entertain the audience while showcasing the talent of the students involved.

Shaun McNulty, ‘22, is eager to continue his Lehigh theater career as he takes on the role of Hanschen Rilow, a friend of the main character, Melchior Gabor. Rilow’s character focuses on the navigation of his identity in a world where it is confusing to be himself.

He believes the show is an incredible opportunity to develop as an actor, as the show features deep and complex characters that are unlike those in other productions. Describing acting as a matter of relationships, McNulty believes the relationship he will develop with his character to be a factor of his growth.

“I am excited to work on such an amazing show that proves theater is more than just a song and dance,” McNulty said. 

As the show features topics that are not frequently talked about in daily life and are considered to be taboo by some, Sam Joffe, ’22, is committed to doing his character justice. Playing Moritz Stiefel, who is a struggling student, Joffe said he must confront the topic of suicide because his character is depressed and decides to take his own life.

While the motifs are inherently uncomfortable to the audience and found to be controversial, Joffe said he believes the show provides a needed opportunity for them to be talked about.

“When people watch the show they understand these are issues that are real,” he said.

With students of different backgrounds and levels of involvement in theater, Whitney sensed connections among the cast members that he believes will lead to noticeable support both on stage and off. He believes this is specifically important in the development of the ensemble, an aspect of the show that Whitney is especially excited to witness.

While it is still early in the production process, music rehearsals have started for cast members and choreography rehearsals are set to begin in the near future.

To choreograph the show, Sammy Reyes, a choreographer and dancer from Philadelphia, will visit to design the musical numbers. Later in February, staging will begin to incorporate the vocal and choreographed aspects of the show together.

After spring break, the full show will be rehearsed. For the upcoming months, Whitney expressed his excitement to continue working with the talented cast and crew to make the show a great success.

“Spring Awakening” will be performed at Zoellner Arts Center on April 5-7 and 10-13.

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