Young actor lives the dream of Broadway

Caitlin Kinnunen, far left, plays Thea, the youngest character in the Tony Award winning musical
Caitlin Kinnunen, far left, plays Thea, the youngest character in the Tony Award winning musical 'Spring Awakening.'
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Fifteen Minutes Public Relations

Caitlin Kinnunen, a 16-year-old from Island County, continues to perform the role of "Thea" in her Broadway debut of the Tony Award-Winning new musical "Spring Awakening."

Kinnunen moved to New York, N.Y. with her mother Betsy Stam this summer to begin rehearsals for the show which opened in December, 2006. The young actor's first performance was on July 21.

The show is playing an open-ended engagement on Broadway. Kinnunen's contract is also open-ended which means she could possibly remain with the show as long as it continues its run. And, if the rave reviews are any indication, "Spring Awakening" will run for a long time.

The producers have added a touring company and "Spring Awakening" will run at Seattle's Paramount Theatre Oct. 14 through Oct. 19 before moving on to a week in Portland, Ore. and an extended stay in Los Angeles, Calif.

The show's success may have come as a surprise to some considering its roots.

One wonders how it's possible to make an 1891 German play about the lack of sex education relevant to today's audiences.

The answer to that seems to be: Get Duncan Sheik to write a score full of catchy indie rock songs and get Bill T. Jones to choreograph it and you'll have a smash hit.

Being thrown into this heady mix of suddenly living in New York's theater district and performing several shows per week in one of the most popular musicals running on Broadway is overwhelming to say the least.

But Kinnunen has risen to the challenge with grace and a little help from her mom.

"It’s great," the young actor said.

"It’s what I've wanted since I was a little girl. To have it happen to me now is one of the most amazing things ... my favorite part is just doing the show; I really love doing it every day," Kinnunen said.

In addition to the glory of watching her teenager perform on one of the most prestigious stages in the country, living with her daughter in a Manhattan walk-up is pretty exciting for Stam, as well.

But she also has the task of taking care of the practical side of life such as getting good a vocal coach, a physical therapist, continuing her daughter's schooling and finding the nearest laundromat.

"It's been a wild ride," Stam said.

"While it's been harder than either of us expected, it's also been more rewarding. She's doing a real job — it's challenging adult job, and then has the kid things in life as well."

And though both mother and daughter have confessed to a certain amount of homesickness, ultimately being a teenager on the Broadway stage trumps missing the Northwest air.

When her family sees her perform, Stam said, they get to see her do the stuff of dreams, both hers and theirs.

"We're proud, we're pleased, we're always a little surprised; a little in awe," Stam said.

"I hold my breath when she sings, her sister gets goosebumps and my husband cries."

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