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'Spring Awakening' a trip for Ross native

Posting an audition notice on his Facebook fan site led Andy Mientus to a role in the "Spring Awakening."

Mientus, a Ross native and North Hills High School graduate (class of 2005), plays Hanschen in the national touring production of the highly lauded and Tony Award-winning musical that begins performances Tuesday at Heinz Hall as a presentation of the PNC Broadway Across America -- Pittsburgh series.

"It's been an absolutely incredible life-changing experience," Mientus says. "I'm doubly blessed, because I get to do this show I care so much about."

Long before he was cast in the national touring production, Mientus was a fervid fan of "Spring Awakening."

He first saw the show in 2006 while it was still running Off-Broadway at the Atlantic Theatre Company. "Spring Awakening" transferred to Broadway in December 2006, where it garnered enthusiastic reviews from New York theater critics. In 2007, it won eight Tony awards including those for best musical, best book of a musical, best original score, best direction of a musical, best choreography, best orchestrations and best lighting design.

Based on Frank Wedekind's controversial 1891 play, "Spring Awakening" merged Wedekind's tale of three teenagers' self-discovery and sexual awakening in 19th-century Germany and a high-energy rock score by composer Duncan Sheik and lyricist Steven Sater.

Publicity materials warn that "Spring Awakening" contains mature themes, sexual situations and strong language.

"It challenges audience notions of what a Broadway show is. A lot of edgy theater goes on," Mientus says. "It's definitely an adult piece, mature and very experimental in the way we tell the story. It's about what happens when the doors of communication are not open"

Mientus was so impressed with "Spring Awakening" that he created a Facebook fan site for it.

"I absolutely loved it, and there was not (then) a lot of information available about it," he says.

The site attracted so many members that it got the attention of the musical's producers. They granted Mientus' site official status, posted a link to it on the production's official Web site and began working with Mientus on information to be posted on the site.

It was while he was posting an audition notice for the national touring production that Mientus, by then a junior majoring in musical theater at the University of Michigan, decided to make the leap from fan to performer.

"It was a show I cared about and the exact show I saw myself in after graduation," Mientus says.

One of the audition sites was nearby, and Mientus went to an open call.

"It was my first real audition, and I was hoping to do well," he says.

For his audition piece, he chose Damien Rice's rock song "The Blower's Daughter."

"It was a song I really connected with," he says. "I guess it worked out."

The national tour began in September in San Francisco, so Mientus is missing his senior year with his classmates, an experience that he calls bittersweet.

But, he adds: "I've seen so much of the county that I've never seen, and I'm getting paid for it. It's like a vacation."

He has enjoyed watching audiences both young and older respond to the show he loves so much.

The show tackles some tough topics about irrepressible sexual urges and the tragedy that can result when communication breaks down and kids are muddling through on their own resources.

"The beauty of the show is that young people respond. It's not patronizing. It doesn't sugar coat," Mientus says. "Older audience members are surprised about how they relate to it. They see a lot of their former selves in the characters."

Additional Information:

'Spring Awakening'

Presented by: PNC Broadway Across America -- Pittsburgh

When: Tuesday through May 31 with performances at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through May 28, 8 p.m. May 29, 2 and 8 p.m. May 30 and 1 and 6:30 p.m. May 31

Admission: $20.50-$62

Where: Heinz Hall, Downtown

Details: 412-392-4900 or www.pgharts.org

Advisory: Contains mature themes, sexual situations and strong language

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