Broadway: Wednesday 26th March
Today, everyone on the New York Theatrica trip saw two Broadway shows.
The first of these was a matinee preview of a new musical A Catered Affair. The script was the role of Uncle Winston in this production.Set in 1953, A Catered Affair was the type of musical where the songs blend seamlessly into the plot and in fact are so tightly woven, they carry the plot forward. The story is about a young couple planning to get married while one side of the family reluctantly commits their life savings into financing the wedding, under pressure from the wealthier in-laws.
The Avila College and Firbank Grammar students range in age from 15 to 18 years, while the Centrestage performing arts school students are a bit older. The subject matter of A Catered Affair, therefore, felt less relevant for some of us. Most importantly, the Avila and Firbank students discussed the merits of the production in our regular debrief session after the show. Opinions were divided amongst the clan on various aspects of the performance, from the singing and directing, to the sets and acting. It was great to see everyone put forward the reasons behind their opinions, critically justifying their observations. These debrief sessions ensure the Theatrica trip to New York remains directly relevant to the students’ studies at school, as many of the tour participants regularly analyse professional theatre shows in Melbourne as part of their Drama or Theatre Studies courses. Here we were analysing a Broadway show in an academic fashion. It just doesn’t get any better than that.
In the evening, we saw what the tour organisers knew would be one of the highlights of the trip for many in Spring Awakening. After first appearing on Off Broadway in 2006, Spring Awakening moved onto Broadway last year and won 7 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. With a plot centring on teenage sexuality and coming of age, granted this show is considered controversial by many and was certainly somewhat confrontational in the theatre tonight. But the beauty lay in a story about teenagers, witnessed by teenagers, performed mostly by teenagers themselves.
Spring Awakening is effectively a teenage Rent. With fantastic score, the rock songs that communicate the story around spoken dialogue are both enthralling and engaging. There was little doubt everyone on the tour loved this show. It’s rawness was a hallmark of its authenticity, as it was very real and had meaning relvant to the students watching it (as opposed to Wicked the previous night, which although delightful, was of course pure fantasy).
Thanks to the never ending connections by Theatrica tour chief Charles Slucki, we were lucky enough to have several cast members come out after the show to talk to us about the production. One cast member who joined the show a couple of months ago, is only 16 years old. Originally from Los Angeles, her mother helped her get settled and has now moved back home, leaving her to share an apartment in New York City at such a young age and while she performs in the evening, she studies school via the internet during the day. Another cast member actually goes to school each day in NYC. I don’t know how she does it!
Spring Awakening was a wonderful production pitched perfectly at our teenage tour group.