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Those You’ve Known’s Director On The ‘Brutal’ Process Of Cutting Spring Awakening Songs From The HBO Documentary

Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele rehearsing in Those You've Known
(Image credit: HBO)

Every few years a Broadway musical will arrive on the Great White Way that truly becomes a sensation. Years before Hamilton did just that, Duncan Sheik’s angsty rock show Spring Awakening blew up, launching the careers of actors like Jonathan Groff, Lea Michele, and John Gallagher Jr.. The original Broadway cast reunited for a benefit concert in 2021, while also filming a documentary about the show with award winning filmmaker Michael John Warren. That project is titled Those You’ve Known, and Warren recently revealed the “brutal” process of cutting beloved Spring Awakening songs for the HBO documentary.

Ahead of the release of Those You’ve Known, I had the privilege of speaking with Michael John Warren about his process filming and editing the film. The documentary masterfully weaves together multiple stories, with Spring Awakening’s cast reflecting on its journey to the stage, intercut with footage of them rehearsing and eventually performing in the reunion concert. But a few songs didn’t make the cut, including gay love song “The Word Of Your Body (Reprise).” I asked Warren about whether Ersnt and Hanschen’s big duet was shot for the doc, and he responded with:

Yes, it’s all shot. As I was saying earlier there’s a lot in this film. And there were a lot of hard decisions. That is such a beautiful moment in that show, and that version of that song is such an important moment. And I just had to make a lot of really hard decisions. Usually you have months to edit a film, maybe even a full year to edit a documentary. And I had weeks, we had weeks really to get this together. So I had to make really brutal decisions early, and that was one of them. And there’s a number of songs ‘I Believe’ is in there, but there was more.

Well, there you have it. There simply isn’t enough time to include every single Spring Awakening song while also telling the non-sung story of Those You’ve Known. So in the end Michael John Warren and company had to say goodbye to certain tracks, and in record time. But perhaps the deleted scenes could end up being released sometime in the future? One can only hope. 

Of course, “The Word of Your Body (Reprise)" wasn’t the only beloved Spring Awakening song that was ultimately cut from Those You’ve Known. “The Mirror-Blue Night” is noticeably absent, as is Wendla’s Act II ballad “Whispering.”  In our same conversation about the doc, Michael John Warren mentioned the latter song’s absence, saying:

There are a number of songs that aren’t in this film. For me the big one was the second verse in ‘Whispering’ in which Wendla sort of owns what she did. It’s a really powerful lyric, and Gwendla as a character does not a big ending arc. She dies off stage from a sketchy abortion, to use Lea Michele’s description. It just is the reality of editing. It’s a brutal thing, I’ve been editing for a long time.

Deleted scenes are simply a part of the film world, and especially when two act Broadway musicals are shot for film. We saw this in recent movie musicals like Dear Evan Hansen and In The Heights, which cut fan favorite songs in order to make the story movie-length. It’s this concern that ultimately convinced Wicked movie director John M. Chu to make two different movies for the upcoming film adaptation. 

Those You’ve Known debuts on HBO Max tonight, May 3rd. Be sure to check out the 2022 movie release dates to plan your next movie experience. 

Corey Chichizola
Corey Chichizola

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his famous actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.