Theater Review: ‘Spring Awakening’
Blossoming, then bruised by life in IU’s rock musical
By Doris LynchH-T Reviewer
November 4, 2012
Both electrifying and lacerating, the folk-rock musical “Spring Awakening” at IU Theatre reaches out to you with all the idealism and longing of youth.
Masterfully directed by George Pinney with musical direction by Ray Fellman, the ultra-talented cast sizzles with energy as it explores the hot-button issues of incest, abortion, suicide and sex (both gay and straight).
German playwright Frank Wedekind wrote the script in 1891 in a time period before teens were considered a distinct subgroup. Yet, how well he captured the youthful idealism that even then was jotted down in journals and shared in heartfelt conversations. In this play, the clash of 19th-century mores and 21st-century music and lyrics creates a kind of fission.
The musical opens with Wendla (Maddie Shea Baldwin) exploring her new breasts just before begging her mother (Chloe Williamson) to explain how her sister got pregnant. First refusing then relenting, Mama instructs, “She loved a man with her whole heart.”
Luke Denison gave an incredibly fine performance as Melchior, the intelligent, idealistic youth who is baffled and stymied by the hypocrisy of adults.
As Moritz, Nat Zegree captured the confusion of a high school student who is eager to learn but at his own pace and on his own terms. His gifted voice and nimble, flexible body claimed the stage as his own.
Representing the adult world in all its pomposity, self-servingness and lack of compassion and understanding were Evan Mayer and Williamson. They made an excellent pair of nasty, unfeeling professors, especially when they pontificated down from two balconies above the stage.
Liza Gennaro’s choreography was visually striking throughout the play. It provided too many “wow” moments to enumerate, but particularly captivating was the first schoolroom scene when the students burst onto the stage carrying chairs they used as percussive instruments as they bent, lifted, plowed and propelled their bodies across the stage.
The songs varied between sad and contemplative ones to in-your-face, hard rock numbers, one of which could only be broadcast on radio as a string of bleeps. In the more raucous numbers, the mix of choreography, powerful singing, dynamic movement, and facial expressions coalesced to create what seemed like a call to arms.
Brook Wood (Martha) and Lexi Lessaris (Ilse) gave a mesmerizing rendition of a song about being sexually abused by their fathers.
Also giving outstanding singing and dancing performances as the other “teens,” were Emily Kelly, Carrie VanDoren, Zach Stewart, Markus McClain, Nick Pecoraro and Colin Schreier.
Lee Burckes’ lighting design, dramatic and focused, adeptly used reds, blues and a frenetic green to provide atmosphere and to complement the action onstage.
Although hidden beneath the stage, the orchestra did an excellent job under Fellman’s conducting.
In the second act, one schoolboy related how there are three ways to live in the world: You can give up as Moritz did, rebel like Melchior, or wait it out, let life skim over you like cream. One hopes watching this play that most teens follow Melchior’s more idealistic path.
Go see this fine production. But don’t bring the little ones — when they say mature content they mean it. This musical is brilliantly conceived and executed, a work of art that you will long remember.
When you go
WHO: IU Department of Theatre and Drama
WHAT: “Spring Awakening”
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 3, 6-10; 2 p.m. Nov. 10
WHERE: Ruth N. Halls Theatre, 275 N. Jordan Ave., in the Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center
TICKETS: $10-$25. Call 855-1103 or see www.theatre.indiana.edu.
WARNING: Contains mature content, adult language and nudity.
Copyright: HeraldTimesOnline.com 2012
Posted with permission courtesy of The Herald Times Newspaper.