Backstage on Broadway: ‘Spring Awakening’ revival opens new doors for deaf actors

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It may be Fall but the songs of Spring are blooming on Broadway.

“It’s a dream, honestly a dream!” Camryn Manheim smiled.

"It’s so exciting to just be here," Lauren Luiz said. "We’re both making our Broadway debuts”

The smash musical Spring Awakening is rockin' the stage once again.

“I was in the original so this is a full-circle moment for me," Krysta Rodriguez said. "It’s a really special to revisit something I thought I knew so well and see it in a completely different way.”

It tells the story of how teens navigate their emerging sexuality.

“People exploring their bodies, going through a change they don’t really understand,” Rodriguez explained.  “And our understanding of uncomfortable conversations between adults and children.”

The original 200 musical won eight Tony Awards and helped catapult the careers of Lea Michele, Jonathan Groff and Skylar Astin. But this production is already setting itself apart.

“It’s like being a grandparent, you’re seeing your child have a child," Steven Sater, books and lyrics, said.

“It maybe the best sounding cast we’ve ever had,” Duncan Sheik, music, added.

Web extra: Cast of 'Spring Awakening' performs songs from show

The cast features a whole new group of people.

“I’ve never done musical theater," Sandra Mae Frank signed. "I’ve done drama, comedy, tragedy, Shakespeare, so I’m relieved that this is part of my repertoire.”

It stars deaf actors who sign throughout the entire show.

“Before I was involved in this show, I never thought that I would be in a musical,” Daniel Durant signed. "It has been a really big challenge, we’ve had people say you can’t do it and in fact I found out I’m very good at it.”

And for the hearing performers, well, they needed to learn the language.

“I did not know a stitch of sign language so at first it was I had to put the signs to the words and learn them as choreography," Rodriguez said. "But then I started to learn what the words were.”

This will be the first of its kind on the Great White Way.

“It took a long time to get to this place, that now we can see deaf actors on stage," Marlee Matlin said. "To be able to see how ASL brings out even more in a performance than just what we’re accustomed to.”

A performance they say, you need to see to believe.

“I don’t think people really know what this is," Austin McKenzie said. "It’s not just a revival, it’s vehicle for a new world that they will have never thought existed."

Spring Awakening  begins previews this week and officially open September 27 at the Brooks Atkinsons Theatre.


Produced by: Kim Pestalozzi