"Spring Awakening" at Oglethorpe University, October 18-27, 2019
Since the site is not allowing the posting of reviews in its normal place, the backlog of my reviews will be going to the forum
Title: Before Adderall and Sex Ed
"Spring Awakening" combines a rock score with the base material of a controversial 1890’s German play about teens coping with their burgeoning sexuality. It’s serious and tragic, livened by the music and by the same two actors playing all adult roles. In Oglethorpe’s production, even the "adult" actors are students. The youthful energy of the cast makes up for any vocal or acting shortcomings, but the shortcomings are minor at most.
Director Richard Garner has put together a very professional production at the technical level. Jon Nooner’s set is circular, with an outer ring steeply raked, functioning as a ramp, and the inner circle nearly horizontal. Surrounding the circle, which is mirrored by a circular surround on high, there are walls in forced perspective and four leaveless trees. Benches against the walls are used for occasional seating; other set pieces are moved on and off the center circle playing space.
The seven piece band resides above and behind the set, providing professional-quality accompaniment to the songs. Bryan Rosengrant’s lighting, Luke Evans’ props, and Anna Lee’s sound design are at the same professional level. Emmie Tuttle’s costumes may be a little nondescript at times, but work well in the context of the production. Laura Hackman’s intimacy direction trumps Alex Ray’s fight choreography in believability, but both are fully acceptable.
The highlights of the show are those moments when Mr. Garner’s staging and Caitlin Gray’s choreography overlap. I was particularly impressed by the number "My Junk," as the adult woman (Caroline Gammage) and the school girls (Kinsey Erin DeGroat, Verina Todorova, Parker Hughes, Jordan Karem, and Veronica Mitchell) joined in male sexual fantasies. The most active choreography involves the male students (Joseph Scott, Asim Javed, Luke Evans, Donovan Lewis, Adonis James Gibson, and Sam Clements). The finest acting, in my estimation, comes from Alex Ray, who makes each adult male role distinct and memorable.
Musical director Kevin Robison has gotten good vocal performances out of his cast, with Ms. DeGroat excelling as Wendla. All the cast have their moments vocally, and seem quite confident in their words and harmonies. Hand mics and standing microphones are used for some numbers, which lends a modern touch in contrast to the nineteenth-century content, but they are not over-used.
Oglethorpe’s production of "Spring Awakening" blends all technical elements with youthful energy to create a satisfactory representation of this Tony Award-winning musical.