Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Spring Awakening"

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entire contents copyright 2011 by Tony Annicone

"Spring Awakening"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company's first production of their 11th season is the much acclaimed Broadway musical "Spring Awakening". 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 features music by Duncan Sheik and book and lyrics by Steven Sater. In this musical, alternative rock is employed as part of the folk-infused score. This musical version of "Spring Awakening" opened on Broadway on December 10, 2006, ran for 888 performances, closing on January 18, 2009. It received eleven 2007 Tony Award nominations, winning eight, including best Tony for 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. The show celebrates the unforgettable journey from youth to adulthood with a power, poignancy and passion that you will never forget. Director Joe DeMita opens his cast up to express the turmoil of puberty and the effect that provincialism and overprotective parents have on their children and future generations. He also choreographs this energetic cast of 17's powerful movements while music and orchestra director Steven Bergman leads the talented cast through Mr. Sheik's astonishing music, ranging from dreamlike ballads to driving, almost religious rock anthems. The results are stunning, leaving the audience in tears and leaping to their feet at the curtain call on a job very well done.

Joe gives each member of his cast a chance to shine in their roles, mixing the comic and dramatic moments together beautifully. Some of his choreography includes many different dance styles, dances with ropes (symbolizing the strangle hold the adults have over their children) and the astounding dance movements to the second act show stopping song "Totally Fucked" when Melchior is sent to reform school. Steven's musical direction brings out the best in the vocals and the orchestra is terrific, too. Hard working stage manager Julie Murray keeps things running smoothly while Joe designed the set and the costumes are by Lindsay Hurley. Wendla, Melchior and Moritz are the leading players in this show and are played by Alaina Fragoso, Jared Walsh and Ben Sharton. They all have topnotch voices.Alaina delivers the goods as this confused young girl who gets caught up in adolescence and she tugs at your heartstrings in this role. Wendla sings "Mama Who Bore Me" as she tries to find out where babies come from by asking her mother, "The Word of Your Body" when she and Melchior want to give into their sexual inclinations, the song is a beautiful ballad and is reminiscent of a song from "Les Miserables", "I Believe" when she 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've Known" when she and Moritz encourage Melchior to live and carry their memories with him forever. This latter song is a superb tear jerking moment in the show. Alaina gives a gut wrenching performance as Wendla. I last reviewed her as Logainne at Next Door Theatre in October.

Moritz's numbers include "The Bitch of Living", an upbeat number about frustrating thoughts and desires where the boys do an angry dance, "And Then There Were None" about wanting help from Melchior's mother and his devastation at her refusal, the emotionally draining "Don't Do Sadness" as he wanders through town contemplating suicide and "Blue Wind" when he refuses Ilse's help, feeling utter despair at his plight, then killing himself. He and Ilse sing the songs in counterpoint. Ben delivers a touching performance in this tear jerker role. Jared is marvelous as the tortured Melchior. His voice soars in his duets as well as his solos, "All That's Known", ""Touch Me", "The Word of Your Body" and "Left Behind" after Moritz's death with the girls and boys. Jared brings tears to your eyes with his heartfelt portrayal of this character.

The show ends on a hopeful note as Ilse played excellently by Jackie Theoharris whose magnificent and soulful voice also sells "The Dark I Know Well" about being abused by her father, "Blue Wind" and leads everyone in "The Song of Purple Summer" which closes the show. There is a gay relationship in the show between Hanschen and Ernst that will make you laugh out loud. This happens as these young characters realize their attraction to each other as it unfolds to the audience. Brian Vaughn Martel plays Hanschen wonderfully and he has a masturbating scene in Act 1 that is hilarious while he and Christian Masters as Georg sing "My Junk". He and Adam Schuler are terrific as the gay characters and they show off their voices in "Word of Your Body". An outstanding male soloist is Matt Phillips as Otto who I last reviewed as Chip in "Spelling Bee" while the female soloists are Lori L'Italien as Martha who sings "The Dark I Know Well" with Jackie and as Thea and Anna, Drew Reinhardt and Kacee Staiti Rimer. The whole chorus numbers soar with high intensity, too. James Fitzpatrick and Linda Goetz play the adults in the show who are looked upon as villains. So for a fabulous contemporary musical that will definitely resonate with you, be sure to catch "Spring Awakening" at F.U.D.G.E. Theater Company. Tell them Tony sent you.

"Spring Awakening" (4 - 13 November)
@ Arsenal Center for the Arts Black Box, 321 Arsenal Street, WATERTOWN MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide