FIM Flint Repertory Theatre’s 23-24 season closes with Spring Awakening, a poignant and passionate coming-of-age rock musical.

The eight-time Tony Award-winning show follows a group of late 19th-century German students as they navigate through morality, sexuality and the anxieties of growing up.
Derek Van Barham, who has been called “one of Chicago’s most talented artists,” has an affinity for a dark, whimsical aesthetic and will bring his edgy sensibilities to the production as both
its director and choreographer. Read on to learn more about Barham’s unique take on this must-see interpretation of the show.
Interview with Spring Awakening director and choreographer, Derek Van Barham

Tell us about your vision for the show. Is there anything that might surprise audiences who have seen it before?
I think I’m most excited about tapping into the visceral nature of the live experience. This goes for the characters, as well as the audience. We’re sharing real space and time, being intimate and vulnerable, getting very up close and personal. This has always been a show about physical sensation, and we’re going to explore that to the utmost. It’s more than just dismissing it as “kids” and their hormones. It’s fever and chills and night sweats. Add a pulsing bass line, and we’re not far from hysteria and exorcism and body horror. “There’s something inside me that I need to release!” This is aiming to be one of the sexiest (and scariest) Spring Awakenings you’ve ever seen. If you can’t catch your breath, goals achieved.

How do the “horrors of adolescence” play a role in the show?
Sometimes, we speak about the “horrors of adolescence” as being universal – and to an extent, they are. Yes. It’s an uneasy road for most of us. But the characters in Spring Awakening experience these horrors to the extreme. The challenges they face are not subtle or every day, and the reactions and outcomes of the show are operatic.
In your opinion, why is Spring Awakening – with source material from 1891 – still relevant to audiences today?
Oh, ‘tis so relevant. Always, unfortunately, or at least for the foreseeable future. Spring Awakening is one of those shows that is always going to be synonymous with the creative spark, with the striking of the anarchic match. As long as there is generational divide, as long as knowledge is forbidden, as long as our very own bodies are politicized and repressed, there’s a need for this material. With every new voice that sings it, every new body that moves with it, we continue the awakening.

What are you most looking forward to about this production?
Working with this incredible group of artists! The show is like a flickering candle flame that keeps growing, shedding light on new elements. With casting, with each design conversation, there’s more light in the room. And I’m just so thrilled about what we’re building and the room we’re starting to see.
And the movement. This show has such a unique pulse and rhythm, and so excited to find ours in the room. It’s movement-driven, ensemble-driven, impulse-driven work. It’s gonna be fun!

Spring Awakening plays at Flint Rep June 7-23, 2024.