Note: Entire Contents Copyright 2016 by Tony Annicone
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.