By Ilan Mester
As temperatures start to rise and spring finally decides to show its colours, Spring Awakening is ready to take over Ottawa. We chat with Christopher Wood, who plays Melchior (the role originated by Glee guest star Jonathan Groff ) in the second national tour of the hit musical. The rock-infused play – which won a whopping eight Tony Awards in 2007 – deals with themes of sexuality and morality. We chat with Wood about his role, the musical’s popularity, and his goal to skate the Rideau Canal.
What sort of things did you do to prepare for the role?
A friend of mine from college, Matt Shingledecker, was in Spring Awakening on Broadway covering Jonathan, and he also played Georg and covered Melchior on the first national tour. I talked with him a few times about the show and the demands of the role, and he gave me some tips. In preparation for rehearsals, I spent a lot of my time studying late 1800s German culture, especially the educational system and the role of the Church at the time. I also read Goethe’s Faust (since Melchior draws some inspiration from it in the play), and some other books about religion. There is a wonderful amount of insight to be gained just by looking at the circumstances which the characters find themselves in — I felt that if I truly focused on that, most of my work would be done for me.
You’ve been in quite a few plays. Which would you say has been the most memorable one?
Outside of Spring Awakening, my most memorable experience was probably when I did Sweeney Todd a couple years ago. It’s going to be a good number of years before I get to play the title role again, and I really cherished every moment I got to spend as the Demon Barber. It’s always been a dream role of mine — I love Sondheim’s work. Who doesn’t love singing beautiful ballads while slitting throats and sending bodies down a chute?
What do you do to keep things fresh when you’re performing the same play day in and day out?
It’s definitely been a challenge and a learning experience to keep everything fresh. It can be so easy to coast and repeat moments on autopilot like playing a song over and over again, but it’s much more interesting to stay on your instincts even if it takes you slightly outside the comfort of a previously successful moment. I try to warm up my instinctual side, and trust that all the rehearsal and performance time has tapered down the range of choices to what will fit and be appropriate. And hey, if something doesn’t work, that’s okay. There is always the next night. Besides, we do and say things everyday and then immediately realize they were a mistake. It’s human, and can even give depth and life to our characters.
Spring Awakening has a massive cult following of teens and young adults. Why do think so many of them connect with the play?
Everyone has gone through this, is currently going through it, or will someday go through it. For the teens who connect with the show, I believe it’s because the show resonates with them. It sparks some visceral response — they can say, ‘Hey, I get that! I’ve been there, I am there!’ It’s their inner-voice.
Have you ever been to Ottawa before? Will you have time to tour the city?
I have never been to Ottawa before, I’m really looking forward to seeing the city and visiting some museums and attractions. One day I hope to make it back in the winter so I can skate the Rideau Canal!
The Spring Awakening tour is almost coming to an end. What are some of the things that you’re going to miss from the tour?
I’ll definitely miss the show, and getting to share its message with audiences every night. It’s been wild to tour the county and visit places I’ve never been before. I feel fortunate that all the people I love and will miss from tour will be right there with me in New York, so I won’t have to miss them too much.
What’s next for you?
Right now, I’m eyeing a New York move not too long after tour ends. I’m going to take some time for myself to read and relax a bit, and then back to the city for whatever is next!
Spring Awakening is on stage from Friday, May 13, to Sunday, May 15, at Centrepointe Theatre. For tickets and more information, visit www.centrepointetheatre.com