Through March 18|
SPRING AWAKENING 710 Main Street/MusicalFare Theatre
By Augustine Warner
There’s nothing like teen angst for drama
That’s a long-running, subset of the stage.
Think “Romeo and Juliet.”
More than a century ago, German writer Frank Wedekind took a run at the genre in “Spring Awakening,” at least that’s one way to translate this story of brutal adults, restless teens and a time without sex education.
He wrote the play in the glory days of Imperial Germany, in the 1890s, although it wasn’t put on stage until 1906.
Roughly a century later, both creation and first production, Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater converted this story into a musical.
It’s a pretty standard plot, set in a German small town, and a gymnasium run by a brutal headmaster (Jacob Albarella), obsessed with students learning the “Aeneid” and “Faust,” and literally beating Virgil and Goethe into them.
This is a class of teen boys, each with issues.
Girls may share the town with them, but not the school with the uniformed boys.
It’s the usual dramatic mix of the brightest kid in the class, the atheist and studious Melchior (Nick Stevens), and the bright and disturbed Moritz (Patrick Cameron), along with others finding their sexual way and the lost and wandering Ilse (Arianne Davidow) and Wendla (Leah Berst), who is finding her mother no help in discovering the sexual ways of the world.
Wendla is very interested in Melchior and he’s interested in her but neither quite knows how to go about it, once things progress from textbook images.
There’s a wonderful scene between Wendla and her mother (Lisa Vitrano) about sex, a confused daughter and a mother who can’t talk about it.
There are lethal consequences.
This is also a musical, with a pounding score and some good voices and a cast well-drilled by choreographer Doug Weyand, all-cast numbers like “Mama Who Bore me,” “I Believe” and “The Song of Purple Summer.”
There are also strong individual numbers, like Moritz with “Don’t Do Sadness,” Moritz and Wendla with “Those You’ve Known” and Ilse with “Blue Wind.”
Much of this could be on a Disney Channel show, a tale of questing kids, lost parents and growing up, although the events are for advanced teens and some audience members at the performance I saw left after the first act.
The clothes are different and the education system is different from ours, with great similarities.
There are also the issues of philandering parents and abusive parents.
Director Randall Kramer and choreographer Weyand have strong leadership, as well as a strong cast, both familiar MusicalFare faces and some new faces and dancing feet.
It’s a strong production on a strong set from Chris Schenk, effectively using the much taller space in the old Studio Arena Theatre, now Shea’s 710 Theatre.
MusicalFare is one of several theater companies planning on using this space for slightly different productions and at least one big one next season.
The space is also likely to attract a different audience than other theaters with somewhat encased audiences.
But, that’s for the next show or the next season.
Right now, the focus is “Spring Awakening.”
It should be.
This is a strong production with strong performances, especially from Stevens, Berst, Cameron, Albarella and Vitrano.
As I said, the issues are familiar although the time and place are different and they offer perspective from the old days that some things never change and this is spring when the thoughts of the young are said to shift to love.
Think of “Spring Awakening” as sex education for prom, a class worth seeing.
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