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Marketing musicals: Commercializing the avant-garde in Spring Awakening

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The creative team of Spring Awakening (2006) never anticipated the musical becoming a commercial success. Librettist Steven Sater, composer Duncan Sheik and director Michael Mayer all hoped that the musical would enjoy a modest off-off-Broadway run, but they never imagined it would find a home on the Great White Way. Rather, the creators sought to eschew musical theatre conventions and incorporate avant-garde theatricality in an effort to present an anti-Broadway (and therefore anti-establishment) mentality. This article examines Spring Awakening’s place within the avant-garde tradition against its success within the commercial sphere of Broadway. Can a commercially successful musical ever truly be thought of as avant-garde?

Keywords: Duncan Sheik; Frank Wedekind; Spring Awakening; Steven Sater; avant-garde; rock musicals

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Pittsburgh

Publication date: December 1, 2013

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