Plays of a serious nature are commonplace. Many of them come with strong themes. Adult themes. Occasionally, one about teenagers comes along. And then it's transformed into a ... musical? In this case, that would be "Spring Awakening," which rambles into Boston after knocking 'em dead on Broadway in 2007, winning eight Tony awards, including best musical.
Plays of a serious nature are commonplace. Many of them come with strong themes. Adult themes. Occasionally, one about teenagers comes along.
And then it's transformed into a ... musical?
In this case, that would be "Spring Awakening," which rambles into Boston after knocking 'em dead on Broadway in 2007, winning eight Tony awards, including best musical.
The story line is frank: the trials and travails of sexually frustrated teenagers in 19th-century Germany.
"I was immediately struck by the potential theatrical tension created between these adolescents in their repressive provincial community, and the possibility of freedom that the songs might offer," said the show's producer Tom Hulce. "It is extraordinary how contemporary the story feels more than a 100 years later after it was written."
Legendary New York Post critic Clive Barnes wrote "the good is rare enough in the theater, but the excellent is ... well, just excellent. And so it was when the gritty, groundbreaking 'Spring Awakening' gave an unexpected jolt of sudden genius to wake up the hidebound Broadway musical."
With Hulce producing, the production has a unique man of the theater to steer it. He's won an Emmy for his role in "The Heidi Chronicles"; he starred in "Equus" and "A Few Good Men" on Broadway; and he was Oscar-nominated for his role as Mozart in "Amadeus." Other film credits include "Dominick and Eugene," "Parenthood" and "Animal House."
Hulce is a full-time producer these days. "I stopped acting about 10 years ago. My brain changed ... my thought process." An actor, he reasoned, has his singular place. A producer is all over the place. Hulce liked "being responsible for the entire event. It's more intense. You sheperd the whole herd."
Hulce 56, got involved with "Spring Awakening" five years ago.
The show runs the gambit. Homosexuality. Rape. Masturbation. And real love. One of the notions of the show, said Hulce, involves "first major love, and major loss, but the human spirit will prevail."
Hulce first saw "Spring Awakening" in a workshop. "It seemed incredibly promising, and very hard to do. A crazy idea. It breaks conventional rules."
Since then, Hulce has taken the show to Vienna and Korea, and engagements in South America and Japan are planned for the summer. How far the production has come fascinates Hulce. "It began at the Atlantic, a 120-seat theater, to a world-wide adventure. This is a cool thing for me."
Hulce grew up in the Midwest. The life he would choose began 20 minutes from his house. "I did youth theater. 'Oliver.' 'Camelot.' 'Peter Pan."'. He gravitated to Interlochen Arts Academy. "I wasn't the star student." Still, he knew he'd found his path.
"I moved to New York just before I turned 20," said Hulce. Years later, "I got a call from an actor who said a play was coming that was a big hit in London. It was 'Equus."' Hulce was cast. "It was the hit of Broadway that year." And a seminal break for the 29-year-old actor.
"Anthony Hopkins was in the play. For six, seven weeks I'd walk by him, and he'd be still working on the script, trying to find something that was missing." Hulce, who was in the play for 15 months, never forgot Hopkins' professionalism.
Hulce calls his "Amadeus" role "the best job ever. About a million people auditioned." He continued to mix film and the stage.
Then he got the producing bug. Actors took care of themselves. Producing, admits Hulce, comes with a twist. "Now everybody's problem is my problem."
"Spring Awakening" may be controversial, but Hulce said "Meredith Viera (of the 'Today' show) brought her daughter to see it, and said it was the third time she'd seen it." But Hulce is agreeable to "leave it up to parents' discretion."
He knows this for certain: Theater has filled up his life more than he could have thought possible. "In high school I knew I wanted to learn how to act. Somebody told me I couldn't act. All's well that ends well."
"Spring Awakening" will be at the Colonial Theater, 106 Boylston St., Boston, from April 28 to May 24. For tickets, call 1-800-982-2787, go to BroadwayAcrossAmerica.com or visit the theater's box office 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday.