NEW YORK ( Associated Press) — While many of John Gallagher Jr.’s peers went to college, they did not. His university became a “spring awakening”.
Gallagher spent most of his prime college years—from 20s to 23s—starring in original, envelope-pushing Broadway shows in the musical Teen Anger.
“It was an education,” he said. “It was a social education. It was in many ways a professional education and a personal education.”
Gallagher recently got the chance to re-school with the cast for the first time in 15 years during a one-night benefit concert.
New Documentary “Spring Awakening: Those You Know” Tuesday’s broadcast on HBO and HBO Max captures that concert and combines performance footage from the original 2006 Broadway show, along with interviews, candid moments and home movies, which often melt beautifully into benefit concerts.
Gallagher, who played Broadway roles in “American Idiot” and “Jerusalem” and on TV in “The Newsroom,” said, “It’s deep to be together again and looking back.”
Filmed in just five days and edited in a matter of weeks, “Spring Awakening: The You’ve Known” follows four major plot lines: the musical itself, its 2006 road to Broadway, a reunion in 2021 after 15 years. And the special relationship between breakout stars Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele.
“It was also an opportunity to uncover what ‘Vasant Jagaran’ really was and still is today – an unapologetic examination of teenage anger and the timeless desire to find acceptance for who you are and what you are doing,” Dave Sirulnik said. Radical Media, which produced the documentary.
Set in 19th-century provincial Germany, but using modern rock songs, “Spring Awakening” tells the story of a group of teenagers who are trying to come to terms with life and their sexuality. It won eight Tony Awards in 2007, including the award for Best Musical.
“They were in this lightning-in-the-bottle moment together,” said documentary director Michael John Warren. “And it shaped who they were, and they were shaping who they were in real time.”
The show is beloved in the musical theater community for pushing the envelope in terms of staging and content, which is hailed along with other ground-breaking shows like “Rent” and “Hamilton.”
“I think it was a complete break with tradition,” says cast member Lily Cooper, who has gone on to a Tony-nominated career in shows like “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “Tootsie” and who is currently in “POTUS.” act out.
“I don’t think I knew how excellent this show really was when I was doing it every night. But now I look back and I really believe it changed the landscape of Broadway and musical theater. The landscape has changed.”
The documentary shows how close the edgy musical was to disaster in 2006, when it jumped from a 300-seat Broadway theater to a Broadway theater with 1,100. There were long, lean months before the Tony nominations arrived, helping propel the show to pop culture success.
“We remember that we look at the audience and hardly see anyone. And that was for months and it was scary. Whenever we had a meeting with our producers, we thought this would be our closing notice. And so it’s just so wild to have kids sleeping outside the stage door to get tickets to go from that,” Cooper said.
The cast of the original show featured actors such as Groff, Michelle and Cooper, as well as Jennifer Damiano, Gideon Glick, Lauren Pritchard and Christa Rodriguez, who rose to fame on TV, film and the stage. Groff earned a Tony nod with “Hamilton,” and Michelle became a superstar with “Glee.”
Groff and Michelle became particularly close, learning about themselves as they performed a show about children learning. In the film, Michelle reveals that she once allowed Groff to inspect her private parts because he was unfamiliar with female anatomy. He said that growing up and returning to the show was a journey.
“I think we understood a lot more of this material. I think it means a different thing to us now as adults,” Michelle said. Very different.”
The music – adapted from a 19th-century play by German playwright Frank Wedekind – is evident in its depiction of incest, abortion, and suicide. This is partly intended as a reminder that teens need to be well-versed about sex in order to avoid tragic mistakes.
“These are the kind of messages that were relevant in 1891 when the original text was written. They were relevant in 2006 when the show was put on Broadway, and they are painfully relevant in 2022 and in some ways even more relevant.” are,” Warren said.
The cast members revealed that young adult fans would wait outside the theater doors after the show to tell them how much the work meant to them or slip them notes saying they finally got it. .
“That’s why you do it,” Gallagher said. “You do it with the hope that you will change someone’s life in the way that pieces of art have changed me – to be able to be a part of something that was not only a good time, but in young people.” There was also a real difference in life.”
The reunion was more than a little surreal for Cooper, who was a teenager during the original run. Like Michelle, she returned as a new mother—with a fresh perspective on “spring awakening.”
“I look at it through a completely different lens as a mother now,” she said. “When I was a teenager, I really thought the show was about these teenagers. And to some degree it is. But now I look at it through the prism of being a parent, and I really see that This story is really about the lack of understanding between the generations.”
Mark Kennedy is here http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits