May 22, 2008

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Making it big
Nashua teen takes lead in Broadway’s Spring Awakening
By Heidi Masek hmasek@hippopress.com

Alexandra Socha has been on one amazing trip since last summer, when she found out (while at a Pennsylvania truck stop) she’d been cast as an understudy and ensemble member for Spring Awakening, the Broadway musical that won eight Tony awards in 2007. She was on her way to Pittsburgh with her parents to attend a Carnegie Mellon University summer theater program, but that’s not where she ended up.

Since then, Socha, 18, has for the most part traded in the suburban life of a Nashua high schooler for that of a Manhattan actress. And on May 20, she’s scheduled to take over the lead, Wendla (pronounced Vendla, I’ve learned), from Lea Michele, who originated the role.

Socha said the move was the last thing she expected: “I mean, they kind of like hinted at me but I wasn’t really sure.” You never really know why these cast choices are made, she said.

“I think for me, at least, that it is a role that I relate to and can easily understand,” Socha said.

Spring Awakening is based on an 1891 play by Frank Wedekind that was banned for years. This rock musical version is set in a German village in the late 1800s. So there are some interesting lines sung while the actors are in period costumes. Such as, “It’s the bitch of living, nothing but your hand...” The adults refuse to tell teenagers anything about their bodies, and their frustration and confusion about puberty leads to destruction. Wendla’s mother isn’t forthcoming when Wendla asks where babies come from. You can guess how that ends.

Socha got to see the show from many perspectives as an understudy for more than one female role. She said she’ll miss getting to interpret different characters. Now she’ll have a year to let one character grow, she said.

Spring Awakening runs eight times per week, and the show is about two hours long. There is actually some audience seating on stage. The ensemble members sit with the on-stage audience and are supposed to blend in. “I pop up every once in a while and sing,” Socha said. So unless she’s the understudy, she spends a lot of time in a chair. Playing Wendla will be a big change, just in terms of energy required.

Michele is next going to be filming a movie in New York, and then will be singing in a concert of Les Miserables at the Hollywood Bowl.

The male lead in Spring Awakening, Jonathan Groff, is also leaving, so Socha has been in rehearsals with his replacement, Canadian musician Kyle Riabko.

“He’s actually never really acted before,” Socha said. “It’s been cool to watch him learn what this is all about,” she said. Socha has been acting since she was 5 years old. Among the companies she performed with are American Stage Festival, The Lyric Stage and Peacock Players.

Socha was able to work independently toward a diploma from Nashua High South. She’ll be graduating in June, “as long as I finish all my work,” she said. She’s planning to take time off for prom, commencement and a few days of Senior Week so she can join the class trip to Six Flags and the senior boat trip.

In fact, even though she’s in an extremely popular Broadway show, Socha says she heads back up to Nashua when she has days off. She visits with friends, and checks out rehearsals to see what they are working on.

Last summer, Socha said she hoped to attend college while she’s still college-age. That’s still her plan, she says, although she’ll be putting it off for at least this year. She plans to study theater.

If Socha were to play any other role currently on Broadway, she’d love to perform as Nellie in South Pacific. Socha is still working on getting an agent, but has been to a few auditions, anyway. She’s also hoping to try out for other things, like commercials.

Socha saw open calls for Spring Awakening on the play’s MySpace page last year. She stood in line for hours at a Boston audition in April of 2007 and was called back. Auditions were also held in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. In June, a casting representative asked her to audition in New York, and she was offered the job about an hour and a half afterward.


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