'Spring Awakening' raising money to appear on Tonys

NEW YORK (AP) -- Getting a chance to perform at the Tony Awards may be priceless, but actually getting to the Tony stage has a high cost.

Creators of the recent revival of "Spring Awakening" have turned to Kickstarter to raise enough cash so the cast can show off why it was nominated for a best musical revival Tony.

The cost for less than 5 minutes of airtime? An eye-watering $200,000.

It's up to the shows themselves to pony up the costs of performing on Tony night, which in the case of "Spring Awakening" is high since the cast needs to be reassembled and re-rehearsed and orchestration fees need to be paid.

As of Friday morning, about $110,000 had been pledged. A representative for the Tony Awards said the show will reveal next week the final line-up and if "Spring Awakening" made the cut.

"Spring Awakening," which ran from September to January, mixed hearing and deaf performers with elegant ease, adding new depth to a show about the dangers of failing to communicate.

The Tony telecast bill is expensive but Deaf West Theatre , which nurtured the show from its start at a 99-seat theater in Los Angeles to the bright lights of Broadway, believes the exposure makes it worth it. The telecast was watched by 6.35 million viewers last year.

"The opportunity to show up on the live Tonys telecast, especially in a year like this that has highlighted inclusion and diversity on Broadway, was too much of an opportunity to pass up," artistic director David J. Kurs wrote to The Associated Press in an email. Deaf West is best known for its revival of "Big River," which played Broadway in 2003.

Set in provincial 19th-century Germany, "Spring Awakening" tells the story of a group of teenagers trying to come to terms with life and their own sexuality. It won eight Tonys in 2007, including for best musical.

In the Deaf West version, deaf actors communicate to the hearing audience by relying on colleagues elsewhere onstage to provide their spoken dialogue and singing voice. Hearing actors use American Sign Language to communicate with deaf audience members. The result was an exhilarating and fluid hybrid of song, word, dance and signing.

"The performance will be an exceedingly rare opportunity to showcase American Sign Language and deaf culture on a national level. The advancement of our community depends on the awareness of the general public about us," wrote Kurs.

The 28-person Broadway cast includes Marlee Matlin, Camryn Manheim , Krysta Rodriguez, Austin P. McKenzie, Daniel N. Durant and Ali Stroker, the first actor who uses a wheelchair to make it to Broadway. Director Michael Arden also got a Tony nomination.

The Tony telecast usually gives performance space to spots for best new musical and best revival nominees, but producers of the TV show often don't reveal the final lineup until just days before the show. This is believed to be the first time a musical has turned to crowdfunding to secure its spot.

If Deaf West isn't able to raise the money, the show will be relegated to a highlight reel, like what happened when "Big River" was nominated. "It just wasn't the same as a live performance," Kurs wrote.

Deaf West's embrace of Kickstarter actually closes a circle. The theater company raised $30,000 through the crowd-funding site for the original show to open in 2014 at the Inner-City Arts' Rosenthal Theater in Los Angeles.

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