“Spring Awakening” is director Stafford Arima’s first project at UC Davis. But he has an established track record directing shows with the popular Music Circus series in Sacramento. And Arima is working on a new musical that could reach Broadway next year.
Arima directed last summer’s Music Circus production of “The King and I,” and he also directed the 2011 Music Circus production of “Miss Saigon,” the 2006 production of “A Little Night Music” (ranked by several reviewers as one of the highlights in the series during the past 10 years) and the 2003 Music Circus production of “Ragtime.”
Arima also was involved with the 2002 Music Circus production of “Paint Your Wagon” — the final show staged in the old rented circus tent, without air-conditioning.
“The King and I,” set in Siam during the 1860s, with a sunny Rodgers and Hammerstein score from the 1940s, may seem far removed from “Spring Awakening,” a much darker piece with a harder-edged rock score, and a story set in autocratic pre-war Germany in 1906.
“What is similar is the awakenings between individuals that were there throughout history, and will be there 1,000 years from now,” Arima said. “With Anna and the King of Siam, there is an awakening of spirit, intellect and friendship” between two people from entirely different backgrounds.
“In ‘Spring Awakening,’ we have flourishing love between who characters, an unstoppable natural occurrence that cannot be stopped by society or the church” — much like Romeo and Juliet, and with similar tragic results.
Arima is also working on “Allegiance,” a show about a Japanese-American family that was interned during World War II at the Heart Mountain camp in Wyoming. Arima, who lives in New York but comes from Canada. brings some personal background to this project — his father, a Japanese-Canadian, was interned in British Columbia.
Last year, Arima directed a tryout of “Allegiance” at San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre, which generated a lot of buzz and drew so well that the show’s short run was extended.
“I was excited and surprised at how much the show touched audiences, including a surprising number of people who did not really know that the internment happened,” Arima said.
He’s hoping to mount the show on Broadway sometime next season, with George Takei (Mr. Sulu in the original “Star Trek”) and Lea Salonga (winner of a Tony Award in 1991 for her role as Kim in “Miss Saigon”) in the cast.
— Reach Jeff Hudson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8055. Follow him on Twitter at @JeffHudsonDE