‘Spring’ Role

What better time than the heart of winter for Broadway to mend its heart with a much-needed "Spring" break?

And "Spring Awakening" is just that, a break from the past prosaic way of performing things on Broadway, where the tried-and-true traditional has become so ho-hum — with more an emphasis on the first — that it would even make Tevye ask for a time out.

Not that Tevye would want his daughters to awake and sing to the sultry sounds that rock this sensational Duncan Sheik/ Steven Sater score saturated with a sexuality that slithers across the stage. Make them a match with the studly Melchior (Jonathan Groff), a man/child whose studies of human anatomy are tactile tutorials? Let them learn about the birds and the bees from Wendla (Lea Michele), the other-worldly woman/girl whose pregnant pause during a seduction stings her for the rest of her life?

"Spring Awakening" is a welcome slap in the face to the formulaic, formatted here as a rockin' musical with a curtsy to its curious roots as a play by Frank Wedekind, whose 1891 take on such taboo topics as sexual awareness among the young and its sizzle falling on the deaf ears of their parents gets a modern-day listen to on stage at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre.

Recycling a fin de siècle German play to make it germane to a new millennium's movers and shakers? Director Michael Mayer may have found the Midas touch eluding Broadway for too long.

And what a find he has in a cast that would make the young and the restless rejoice; the kids on stage are … kids. Babies having babies? Youngsters yoked to their own hormonal hysterics.

One of the finds is Gideon Glick, who plays one of Wedekind's wunderkids, Ernst, whose hold on nature is self-fulfilling as he awkwardly, realistically discovers that "boys will be boys" is a sexually charged dream date.

Glick, a gracious grad of the Philadelphia theater scene, whose heightened expectations of success were nurtured at Lower Merion High, is, at 18, having a chai time on Broadway, winning acclaim and accolades for his out-of-the-closet/into-the-hell of self-discovery role as the earnestly homosexual Ernst.

Artistry Important
Keep it gay was not exactly the mantra of 19th-century Germany, when "Spring Awakening" first sprung on the public. But it's lessons do hark to the here and now and, here and now, Glick is what makes Ernst run.

"You don't see a lot of shows with artistic integrity," muses Glick of a show fat and gorged on it.

You also don't see a lot of kids with the integrity to approach a role so richly original as Glick does. But Glick got the call early on, appearing in the long-gestating musical's off-Broadway incarnation as well.

Gideon's career Bible is short, sweet and substantive. But then, this student of history and religion — which he would like to major in when he one day enrolls at New York University, where he was accepted before his welcome to Broadway– has a history and heritage that awakened the originality in him.

Glick speaks admirably of his parents' nomadic nugget of a Jewish journey in which, some years back, "they moved to Israel, where they lived for 15 years" and wound up studying at Hebrew University.

The land of milk and honey was a sweet setting for raising a family, as Glick's "brother and sister were born there, although I was born here."

Born to be inspired?

His interest in history and religion is rooted in his own roots, "discovering how culture develops alongside religion. As an actor, such [an interest] is the best tool to see how [characters] develop."

He's developed quite a bit, thank you, after years spent studying/acting at the Prince Music Theater and at the Wilma.

But even with a number of New York credits, was there really anything to prepare him for the new direction taken by "Spring Awakening"?

"Everyone has those beautiful moments in life," attests Glick of those timeless times of self-discovery, which he himself had, coming out as gay as a seventh-grader.

And if "Spring Awakening" makes the grade — and there is every indication it will — Glick gloms on to an importance he thinks the show shows all so well.

"It is important for the gay community," he claims, "to witness how a mainstream Broadway show deals with the subject. We all have an Ernst inside us."

Not all are gay, to be sure. Some of these earnest stories are straight and bi-the-book, springs the message of the musical, which is at times graphically gritty in its penetration.

Enough to make one's "Hair" stand on end — which its natural prototype once did? Not in a salacious way at all. If these history boys and girls learn anything at all, it's that ignorance is not bliss, and neither are its repercussions.

Glick feels at home on stage, in the company of a young company of actors. "All the kids are young, which makes me comfortable," he says.

Is this "Spring" role the first dish in a multi-course career? Glick is also adept at singing his heart out on stage, which he may have picked up feeling at ease having his Bar Mitzvah at Congregation Beth Am Israel in Penn Valley.

Is there a parental advisory that comes along with this role — from his parents?

"For them, the explicitness is not a problem. I grew up in a liberal household — both my parents [Barbie Zelizer and Michael Glick] are professors — so it's not a concern."

There is nothing to fear but fear itself was his early sex education, learning that "sex is natural."

And Glick — who "never took acting classes" — is a natural, whose acting intuitions are of the street-theater type he picked up as part of the Prince Theater's Rainbow Company of young talented tykes.

And if Ernst does get a slap in the punim as a wake-up call in "Spring Awakening," it's only appropriate; after all, Glick's most acclaimed role to date was as Slap, a best-buddy type in last year's well-regarded "One Last Thing," a coming-of-age while dealing-with-early-death movie.

And one last thing …

"That was a wonderful experience," he acknowledges, "playing in a movie, unique in that it dealt with confronting a friend's death."

From death to an awakening … all, concedes Glick, natural phenomena in the phenomenal circle of life that he is circumnavigating during this "Spring" break. 



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