A Deafening Point of Difference

Every now and then, there is a Broadway musical which comes along and completely shakes up the notion of the traditional musical. Rent, In the Heights and Spring Awakening are just a few of the most popular examples. But as Spring Awakening returns to Broadway later this season, it has a major competitor which it will face head on.

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Non-traditional musicals are some of the most important entertainment products coming out on Broadway. They shake up the traditional entertainment medium and provide a reason for many new audiences to try out a Broadway musical – and ultimately provide them with an experience that they will enjoy more than your typical Rodgers & Hammerstein.

These boundary-pushing shows often do incredibly well in the industry because they fill a new need that currently isn’t being catered for and they have the advantage of having a ‘shock’ factor which drives people through the doors in hoards.

Spring Awakening was one of those shows. Set in late-19th century Germany, the story explores several teenagers as they rebel against their conservative society and undergo a sexual awakening. There is swearing, unwanted pregnancies and even a death set against a rock and roll soundtrack which appeals to fans of the current music industry much more than traditional and conservative offerings. This show sky-rocketed in popularity when it first opened and has since developed a strong cult following. But as it returns to the Great White Way later this year, it isn’t the only show pushing boundaries.

Hamilton, written by the rapping lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda, is set in an equally conservative time during the signing of the Declaration of Independence and does the same thing as Spring Awakening. Setting this story against music that is much more familiar to younger generations and creating a number of experiences that are easily relatable to today’s audiences. And its ticket sales easily show how popular this kind of experience is with each performance selling out!

If you were choosing a show on Broadway later this year and fell into this demographic which is waiting for a show which actually resonates with you, then you would assume that Hamilton would have the advantage. It is new. It is fresh. And it still has the shock factor that Spring Awakening had when it first opened . . .

Until you find out the reason for bringing Spring Awakening back to the stage!

This new production of Spring Awakening was created with a slightly different focus . . . inclusivity. The production features a number of roles for deaf performers who sign their lines and songs rather than singing them accompanied by singing performers off-stage who perform their lines.

I have been to hearing impaired-friendly performances before. It often involves have an advertising ticker on the side of the stage which displays the lines and lyrics as they are performed onstage. It isn’t the most engaging experience for deaf patrons because they end up reading the words rather than actually being able to watch the acting onstage. This new take is breaking boundaries in this sense creating a much more engaging experience for this group of audience members.

But not only will its inclusivity help it compete against Hamilton. This offer is completely new. It has never been done before on Broadway stages. And that is something which this demographic is looking for when choosing tickets. They want an experience unlike anything else. Something which is new and exclusive. So Hamilton will need to watch out, because this is where Spring Awakening will have a deafening point of difference over its competition!

 

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