Theatre Mirror Reviews - "SPRING AWAKEING"

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Note: Entire Contents Copyright 2016 by Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

URI Theatre's winter show is "Spring Awakening", the much acclaimed Broadway musical. The show is a rock musical adaptation of the controversial 1891 German play of the same title by Frank Wedekind which was, for a time banned in Germany due to its portrayal of abortion, homosexuality, rape, child abuse and suicide. It's a world where all the grown-ups hold all the cards. It features music by Duncan Sheik with a book and lyrics by Steven Satar. In this musical, alternative rock is employed as part of the folk infused score. "Spring Awakening" opened on Broadway on December 10, 2006, ran for 888 performances, closing on January 18, 2009. It received 11 Tony Award nominations in 2007, won 8 Tony Awards including Best Musical, direction, book, score and featured actor. Set in late-19th Century Germany, this show tells the story of teenagers who are discovering the inner and outer tumult of sexuality. It celebrates the unforgettable journey from youth to adulthood with a power, poignancy and passion the audience will never forget. Director Paula McGlasson opens the cast up to express the turmoil of puberty and the effect that provincialism and overprotective parents have on their children and future generations while music and orchestra director Lila Kane, leads the talented cast through the astonishing music, ranging from dreamlike ballads to driving, almost religious rock anthems. Choreographer Dante Sciarra taught this energetic and talented cast the powerful dance moves that enthrall the audience. The results are stunning, leaving the audience in tears and applauding wildly at the curtain call on a job very well done.

Paula gives each member of her cast their moment to shine in their roles, mixing the dramatic and comic moments together wonderfully. Jimmy Caltri is her assistant director. Lila's musical direction brings out the best in her cast and in her musicians. Some of the music has a dissonant sound to it like a Sondheim score. The onstage orchestra sounds splendid. Dante's dances include many different styles. The show stopping number is "Totally Fucked" when Melchior is sent to reform school in the second act and it is astounding. Dante's choreography is always incredible for every show I have seen him choreograph. The excellent set is by Kent Homchick with breathtaking projections while the marvelous costumes are by Toni Spadafora. The leading characters in this musical are Wendla, Melchior and Moritz. They all have incredible voices. Emma Walker as Wendla, delivers the goods as this confused young girl who gets caught up in adolescence and tugs at your heartstrings in this show. She sings "Mama Who Bore Me" when she asks her mother where babies come from and "The Word of Your Body" when she and Melchior want to give into their sexual inclinations which is a beautiful ballad, sounding like a song from "Les Miserables." Emma then sings "I Believe" when Wendla and Melchior have sex, "The Guilty Ones" after they reflect on their love making, "Whispering" when she becomes optimistic about her future child and "Those You Have Known" when she and Moritz encourage Melchior to live and carry their memories with him forever. This is a superb tear jerking moment in this musical. Emma delivers a gut wrenching performance as Wendla. Brava!

Ben Church delivers a multifaceted dramatic and tear jerking performance as this tortured soul, Moritz. The character has been traumatized by puberty and can't concentrate on his lessons. Ben is also quite comic in the scenes in the first act as this underachieving student. His numbers include "The Bitch of Living", an upbeat song about frustrating thoughts and desires with the boys performing a chair dance with pelvic thrusts and "Then There Were None" about Moritz's devastation at Melchior's mother's refusal to help him. Ben stops the show in its tracks with the emotionally draining "Don't Do Sadness" as he wanders through town contemplating suicide as well as with the stunning "Blue Wind" when he refuses Ilse's help and does the unthinkable at his feelings of utter despair. A brilliant performance from this young actor in this challenging role. Steven Carvalho is another excellent performer as the tortured Melchior, who is the brilliant and fearless leader at school. His voice is heard in his duets as well as his solos. Steven brings tears to your eyes with his heartfelt portrayal especially when he finds out his love of his life's grave. His songs with the girls and boys include "All's That Known", "The Mirror-Blue Night" and "Left Behind." Steven's falsetto is fantastic in several numbers. Terrific job by all three of the leading players.

The musical does end on a hopeful note. Ilse played marvelously by Emily Carter whose soulful voice sells "Blue Wind" to Moritz before his utter despair. She also sings "The Dark I Know So Well" with Martha about being abused by her father. Emily and the cast sing the hopeful number "The Song of Purple Summer" to close the show. Thankfully there are some lighter moments to help balance the heavy drama. The scene between the two gay characters of Hanschen and Ernst is hilarious and culminates with them kissing onstage. This happens as these two young characters realize their attraction to each other as it unfolds to the audience. John Thomas Cunha plays Hanschen wonderfully. He has a hilarious masturbating scene as he, the boys and girls sing "My Junk" with the girls dancing around him. Jake Farnum is splendid as Ernst. He and John sing a reprise of "Word of Your Body." Other soloists include Ardemis Kassabian, Valerie Ferris and Emily Turtle as Thea, Martha and Anna and the male soloists are Justin Culshaw and Brooks Shatraw as Otto and Georg. Geoff Leatham and Valerie Remilard play the adult men and women in this show who are viewed as the villains which is a lot like "West Side Story'' before it. So for a fabulous contemporary musical that will definitely resonate with audiences of all ages who have suffered through puberty, be sure to catch "Spring Awakening" at URI Theatre. It is one of the must see shows of this winter season. Tell them Tony sent you.

SPRING AWAKENING (1 to 11 December)
URI Theatre, Will Theatre,105 Upper College Road, Kingston, RI
1(401)874-5843 or

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