Deaf West's 'Spring Awakening' to open at the Wallis in May

The Wallis to host a limited-engagement run of Deaf West's 'Spring Awakening' in May

If you missed Deaf West Theatre's sold-out production of the Tony Award-winning rock musical "Spring Awakening" last fall, you have another chance.

Deaf West and the Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts in Beverly Hills announced on Thursday that they will present 22 performances of the show from May 21 through June 7 in the Wallis' Bram Goldsmith Theater.

Patricia Wolff, the interim artistic director of the Wallis, said she knew immediately after her first viewing of the show that it had to be brought to the Wallis.

"It was absolutely riveting," she said. "The way Deaf West has interpreted this material musically and emotionally is nothing short of thrilling."

The show, with music by Duncan Sheik and book and lyrics by Steven Sater, is based on a German play from 1891 written by Frank Wedekind. It explores the edgy world of teenagers discovering their sexuality in a repressive environment fraught with miscommunication and misunderstanding.

The show is performed simultaneously in American Sign Language and spoken English, but the experience of watching it should be dynamic for all who attend, said Deaf West Artistic Director David J. Kurs.

"We do not create a distinction between our hearing and deaf audience members. It is our intent to offer the same, equally entertaining, shared experience to everyone in the audience," he said by email.

"We took the risky step of offering a new interpretation of a beloved musical with a huge following. So in that regard, it was very surprising and gratifying when the reactions began to come in," he said. "We had a limited run, and we are delighted that all of the people who wanted to see the show will get a chance to see it."

The biggest difference from Deaf West's original staging of the show at the 99-seat Rosenthal Theater in downtown L.A. and the new version at the Wallis will be one of scale: The Bram Goldsmith Theater has 500 seats.

"The transition from a 99-seat theater to a larger venue is a very complicated one," Wolff said. "I think the bigger stage will heighten the experience and give it a broader scope."

The Wallis show will also have new scenic and projection design elements. The cast, Wolff said, will largely stay the same.

Next up for Deaf West? A production of David Mamet's "American Buffalo" in collaboration with the department of music, theatre and dance at California State Los Angeles. That show will open on Feb. 14 at the university's 250-seat State Playhouse.

"It’s the first time we’ve done one of David Mamet’s plays and we’re very excited about the ways that his rhythms mirror the ebb and flow of communication in ASL," Kurs said. "Past that, we are developing two more sign language musicals. We look forward to building upon what we have done and to advancing the art form of sign language theater."

"Spring Awakening." The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills. Times vary. $19 to $99. (310) 746-4000; www.thewallis.org.

Updated: The post has been updated to reflect the latest news from production representatives, who say they have learned that some roles may need to be recast because of actor availability.

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