Musical tackles angst of growing up

David Addis, holding the microphone, rehearses a musical number as Hole in the Wall Theater in New Britain prepares its production of ‘Spring Awakening.’

“Spring Awakening” is not your typical happy, happy, joy, joy musicals about teens.
The show—with music from Duncan Sheik and lyrics/ book from Steven Sater— includes tales of sexual abuse, stifled sexuality, unwanted pregnancies, suicide, and bourgeois oppression.
But it’s a musical, that for its fans, has earned a steadfast passion and unswavering allegiance
Hole in the Wall in New Britain will be staging the musical Nov. 9 through Dec. 8.
Bristol’s Nick Rollo is a member of the cast, taking on the role of Hanschen
Rollo—a 2010 graduate of Bristol Eastern High School— isn’t much older than the characters on stage.
“I very much remember what it was like going through some of the things these characters go through in terms of finding themselves.,” said Rollo. “This show is all about coming to terms with your body as you grow up and become an adult.
Rollo continued, “I was lucky in the sense that, unlike the adults in ‘Spring Awakening,’ my parents and other adults in the community didn’t try to stifle me or the other kids I grew up with. They were very open in answering our questions about our own bodies and wanted to help us so that we didn’t make the wrong decisions in regards to ourselves and others.”
Although he can relate to the stories on the page, his own character, Rollo said, “(Hanschen) is a total opposite from me.”
“This has made playing him difficult for me, yet I like the challenge,” Rollo added. He explained, “Hanschen is an opportunist and calculates each of his moves very carefully so that he gets exactly what he wants out of life, no matter what. Myself, on the other hand, will deal with situations as they come to me and I just accept the ‘system’ for what it is, as opposed to making it work in my favor.
“That being said,” Rollo continued, “I don’t necessarily think Hanschen is a bad guy, and in playing him, I’ve realized I need to take more of a hands-on approach in the things that go on in my surroundings to make sure I receive the outcome I want.”
The show was a surprise hit, making the leap from Off Broadway to Broadway, and had a successful road tour (which took the stage at The Bushnell in Hartford in 2011).
Rollo said he thought the show was a success because “everyone can relate to something in this show. It deals with some pretty heavy topics, but on the surface all of these characters are just coming to terms with themselves as they grow to become adults and that universal feeling of not always knowing what is going on with your body is relatable in everyone.”
The story takes place in late 19th century Germany. But Rollo felt today’s young people still will find something to like in “Spring Awakening.”
”I definitely think people who grew up in my generation will enjoy it because the music itself is so rockand roll and the topics we cover are very risqué, I think it will draw a crowd that wouldn’t always go to a musical.”
However, Rollo added, “I would say I’m nervous for my parents’ generation and older to see it just because they weren’t as open with these topics when they were my age, so they may shift in their seats a few times during the show.”
For Rollo, although he is now part of the cast of “Spring Awakening,” he never had a chance to see it on stage.
“I heard the music a lot in high school, but I never got a chance to see it on Broadway or on the tour before auditioning,” he said.
“In the beginning of rehearsals, I liked the show and was excited to perform it, but after realizing the metaphors that a lot of the songs stand for and delving into my own character and hearing the other characters’ ‘stories.’ I absolutely fell in love.”
As for this particular cast of the show, Rollo had nothing but praise.
“With a show like ‘Spring Awakening,’ it is very hard to not bond so quickly,” said Rollo. “This cast has been amazing to work with and we are all so cohesive on stage. Our characters are all so different, yet we interact as if it was natural for each of us.”
Rollo continued, “We all display such diverse characters through an entire spectrum of human emotion. From characters like ‘Hanschen’ (myself), ‘Thea’ (Gloria Antonios), ‘Ernst’ (David Lopes), and ‘Anna’ (Julie Jarvis), who think that the strict society they live in is and always will be the correct decision, to ‘Ilse’ (Peyton West) and ‘Martha’ (Gia Wright), who go through some truly awful situations and have to question such an institution, the separation in thought processes is clear.”
“But,” Rollo said, “David Addis who plays ‘Melchior’ has really blown me away in his complete transformation into his character. He is really mesmerizing to watch during rehearsals.”
And as the show begins to take its final shape, Rollo said the show’s director Todd Santa Maria “tells us after each rehearsal that he loves what we’re doing, but we have to still give more. That our characters are clear, but that we have to become them as opposed to just act like them. And this has really helped me to just let go of Nick and really focus on my character because that is what is going to make this show spectacular.”
And as people ponder whether to buy a ticket to see this Hole in the Wall production, Rollo put in a pitch. “I think people should see this show because it is…well it’s amazing. The cast, the music, the play itself is such an eye opening experience that everyone will walk away wanting more.”
Hole in the Wall Theater presents “Spring Awakening” on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Thursday, Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. General admission is $25, and students/ seniors get in for $20. The Nov. 16 performance will be pay what you can afford. Hole in the Wall is located at 116 Main St., New Britain. For more information, go to or call (860) 229-3049.
Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver. com.