Rock ‘n’ rolling into a lead role

By Kelly O'Brien ‘15
September 26, 2014

The Department of Theatre Arts will bring to life a sense of vibrancy and new growth with “Spring Awakening,” the first production of the 2014-2015 school year. The musical opens this week and runs through October 5.

A story centered on self-discovery, the musical features a fresh face in the lead role and a rocking score that will offer audiences an electrifying experience that explicitly touches on topics of concern for teenagers.  From love and sex to the struggle for identity, this production promises to reawaken viewers’ adolescent years.

Sprouting into the spotlight upon arrival on the Hilltop, Zach Olson ’18, a music business major from New Berlin, Wisconsin, took on the charismatic character of Melchior Gabor before he settled into college.  While adjusting to life as a music business student, Olson had to adopt the role of a student who delves into deep feelings and questions authority when he walked on stage—a challenge made easier by the warm welcome he received from those in the theatre.

“It truly is a dream come true to land this type of lead as a freshman,” Olson said.  “It was initially a shock and, to be honest, it frightened me. But after arriving on campus and meeting with the cast and the director, it felt like I never left home.” 

Hoping his performance “hits home” with the audience, Olson took the time to connect with his character.

“Some challenges for me have been to really discover and undergo the journey of my character and to channel some of the emotion he feels, but then I began to relate every decision and emotion to a personal experience in my life,” he said.  “I am excited for the audience to feel the raw emotion this show brings to the surface.”

Equally as prominent as the emotional aspect in the production is the rock ‘n’ roll music.  Director and Theatre Arts Department Chair Scott Kanoff characterizes the songs as Shakespearean-like soliloquies that reveal the characters' innermost feelings and desires.

“Some of the songs are real head-bangers,” he said.  “They exist in a completely separate, concert-like theatrical world, so the music has its own reality, its own palette of light, color and sound.”

In addition to the score’s significance in “Spring Awakening,” Kanoff also recognizes Olson as an important piece of the production.

“Being cast in a lead as a freshman is pretty unusual, so that certainly speaks to Zach's talent and strength as a performer,” he said.  “He really brings it, and I think he's going to have a terrific future as a performer at Bradley.”

Kanoff pointed to the show’s relevance to the Bradley audience and suggested attendees will be moved by the storyline.

“I always feel that a play or musical has to be a total event that affects you in the same active way as a big concert or a football game” he said.  “It has to be something you connect with in a very personal way and that vibrates in you long after you've experienced it.  ‘Spring Awakening’ really has been one of those genre-bending shows that comes along once in a while that speaks to people in that visceral way.”

“Spring Awakening” runs September 25-October 5 at the Hartmann Center. For ticket information, contact the box office at (309)-677-2650.