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Spring Awakening

a Musical
CATEGORY :
by Book and lyrics by Steven Sater, Music by Duncan Sheik

COMPANY : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
ID# 4100

SHOWING : August 25, 2011 - October 01, 2011

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

The 2007 Tony Award-winner for Best Musical unleashes its raw emotional power on the Actor's Express stage in the muscial event of the fall! A group of teenage friends cope with the agonies and ecstasies of discovering sex in all its varieties. This provocative, pulse-pounding explosion of rock-and-roll and theatrical energy delivers a punch that is not to be missed. Spring Awakening had been hailed as the "Best Musical of the Year" by the New York Times, New York Post, Star Ledger, Journal News, New York Observer and USA Today.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Freddie Ashley
Scenic Designer Seamus M. Bourne
Music Director Seth Davis
Lighting Designer Joseph P. Monaghan III
Sound Designer Jon Summers
Costume Designer Erik Teague
Choreographer Sarah Turner
Georg Nick Arapoglou
Moritz Greg Bosworth
Wendla Kylie Brown
Adult Women LaLa Cochran
Melchior Jordan Craig
Anna Kathryn Foley
Ilse Stephanie Friedman
Hanschen Jordan Harris
Ernst Bernard Jones
Otto Jimi Kocina
Martha Christen C. Orr
Adult Men Robert Wayne
Thea Angie Zhang
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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Adolanguescence
by Dedalus
Friday, October 28, 2011
4.5
I was fully expecting to dislike “Spring Awakening.” After all, I find the cast recording less than compelling, the original 1896 Frank Wedekind play a bit of a frustrating slog of a read, and the combination of modern rock music and period characters a disharmonious discontinuity. Imagine my surprise to find Actor’s Express’ production of this 2007 Tony winner completely captivating and profoundly moving.

So, we’re in late 19th-century Germany. Students at an all-boys Academy and the girls they grew up with are entering adolescence, that confusing time of life when puberty raises its ugly head (so to speak) and hormones trump maturity. The older generation is happily stuck in a hidebound rut of authority and Victorian contempt for anything that smacks of the sensual. So, the kids are between a rock and a hard place (so to speak) – their bodies are sending them urgent demands that MUST BE MET NOW !!!!, but their parents and teachers categorically refuse to explain these demands. So, we’re left with dreams that aren’t explained, desires with sudden and hidden consequences, harsh judgments and cold lovelessness. In other words, the young characters are “Totally F$%^ked” (in the words of one of the show’s best numbers) with tragic results.

Melchior (Jordan Craig) is the smart kid, the leader, the one to whom everyone goes to for advice, the “Great Hope” of his school and his family. Wendla (Kylie Brown) is an innocent waif whose mother refuses to tell how she becomes an aunt. Melchior and Wendla “discover” each other (though they have known each other their entire lives). Moritz (Greg Bosworth) is a slower student, gangly and shy, who doesn’t understand these “sticky dreams” that keep him awake at night and narcoleptic in class. His father cares less about failure than how the neighbors will judge that failure. Martha (Christen C. Orr) is abused by her father, Ilse (Stephanie Friedman) has been ousted by her family, Ernst (Bernard D. Jones) has a crush on Hanschen (Jordan Harris), who is only too happy to act upon that knowledge. The other kids (played by Nick Arapaglou, Kathryn Foley, Jimi Kocina, and Angie Zhang) all have their distinctly characteristic aspect of adolescence to explore, all contribute threads to the tapestry being constructed by the play.

These teenage characters run the full spectrum from total innocence to active seducer, from languescent torpor (“I just want to feel something!”) to spastic foot-stomping passion (“I want to feel something NOW!”). From the vantage point of late middle age, I found it difficult to watch them wander into the traps I fell into myself, become overwhelmed by “the little things,” toy (sometimes successfully) with total self-destruction. I shuddered at Hanschen’s calculated seduction of the innocent Ernst, and at Melchior’s more abandoned seduction of Wendla. I heard my own teachers’ voices in the thoughtless pontifications of the “adults”, (all men played by Robert Wayne, all women by LaLa Cochran, all characters intentionally dressed alike and interchangeable).

And, against all odds, the modern elements worked. The kids were all costumed in semi-period clothes that contained modern touches, all had modern hairstyles and vocal styles. The entire set was designed to suggest the German Expressionism of films of the 20’s (okay, not “Caligari” surreal, but definitely evocative of Fritz Lang and others of that ilk), which created an ambience of mood and emotion rather than one of period. These kids seemed to bridge the past and the present, the adults mired in the past – it is this dynamic that made the seeming culture clash actually gel and propel.

Even the songs took on a new veneer when backed by the passion of these performers. Okay, I still don’t love the score, but now the songs will evoke the moments of the play that gave them life. The opening “Mama Who Bore Me” is a plaintive “What is happening to me?” cry from Wendla, the “angry” songs (“The Bitch of Living,” “The Dark I Know Well,” “Totally F$%^ked”) have a drive and passion missed by a casual listener of the CD. And the final “Song of Purple Summer” is a beautiful hymn to growing, to loss, and to the memory of those who never make it through this “spring.”

What really sells this play for me are how all these contradictory elements seem united, how they create their own world that is perfectly acceptable and perfectly analogous to our own. The ensemble work of the cast is astounding (kudos to Music Director Seth Davis, Director Freddie Ashley, and Choreographer Sarah Turner) for making their various contributions seamless and whole), and the design work (set by Seamus Bourne, costumes by Erik Teague, lights by Joseph P. Monaghan III) creates a world that I was only too happy to visit. This is one of the best-looking, best-sounding shows I’ve seen at Actor’s Express.

So, “Spring Awakening” is a tremendously moving tapestry of adolescence, of the angst and anticipation that create that long and languid span between childhood and adulthood (what I describe as “adolanguescence,” because it’s such a neat-sounding word), where we fight the battles of fast-change maturity with the tools of a child (when our parents and teachers even choose to give us those tools). It is ultimately an emotionally satisfying excursion into the slings and arrows, the fatalities and survivals, the rants and whines of teenagers of every generation.

And it’s a reminder that it’s sometimes short-sighted to pre-judge a show by its original cast recording.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)


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