Like many families, Elizabeth Judd's filed most of the topics covered in Spring Awakening under stuff they didn't discuss.
"Growing up in kind of a conservative family — we're from Texas — there were certain things we just didn't talk about, and going to see the show with them was amazing," Judd says.
Spring Awakening is a Tony Award-winning musical based on an 1891 German play by Frank Wedekind. The show, about young people discovering their sexuality, was controversial in the late 19th century, and it is controversial today because of its frank portrayal of sex, masturbation, abortion and other topics.
It's not exactly the kind of show every kid would want to see with their folks. But Judd, 20, says maybe they should.
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"My dad was in tears, and we were all so moved," said Judd, who saw the original Broadway production when she auditioned to be a replacement in the cast. "We all got to talking about what we had seen in the show, and some of these topics we were talking about for the first time ever.
"It was incredible, and after having that experience, I said, 'Spring Awakening is something I have to be a part of.'"
Now, she is.
Judd plays Wendla, the female lead, in the national tour of Spring Awakening, which comes to the Lexington Opera House this weekend.
The story centers on a group of school kids and the uncaring adults in their lives. Their parents withhold information and pass quick judgment, and the teachers conspire against them. Wendla and the handsome Melchior struggle with their unexplained desires for each other, and several students come to tragic ends.
Although it sticks to the 19th-century script, the music is driving rock by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater.
"It's very different from any musical I have ever seen," Judd says. "The script, the text is more classical, but the music is contemporary. So the characters break out of this classical text and sing a rock song. But it is written so perfectly, it's not this jarring thing. It seems so natural."
The show has become a big part of Broadway's latest, and increasingly infrequent, contribution to pop culture. Lea Michele, who originated the role of Wendla on Broadway, is now seen weekly as Rachel, the female lead of the Fox TV hit Glee. And Michele's Spring Awakening co-star, Jonathan Groff, played the recurring role of Jesse on the show last season.
The production opened the door to film success for some of its stars, Judd says, but the tour cast doesn't spend much time thinking about that.
"We're pretty focused on this show and being a part of Spring Awakening," says Judd, who is frequently asked whether she is related to Kentucky's famous singing and acting Judds.
"I'm not, unfortunately," she says, but the experience she has had with her own family and the show has been a driving force behind her performances.
She also has been moved by meeting teenage and young adult fans after the show and hearing how it affected them.
"When you really sit back and look at it, you realize you or someone you know has been through every single one of the things they talk about," Judd says. "And when you realize that, it hits you, and you can't help but be emotional about it."