Theatre Mirror Reviews"Spring Awakening"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


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entire contents copyright 2012 by Tony Annicone

"Spring Awakening"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Encore Theatre's current production 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's a world where the grown-ups hold all the cards. It features music by Duncan Sheik with book and lyrics by Steven Sater. 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 2007 Tony Award nominations, 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. Music and orchestra director, Jeff Kimball, leads the talented cast through the astonishing music, ranging from dreamlike ballads to driving, almost religious rock anthems. Director Fred Fortier 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 Fred's beautiful wife, Kathy choreographs this energetic 13 member cast's powerful movements. The results are stunning, leaving the audience in tears and leaping to their feet in unison at the curtain call on a job very well done.

Fred gives each member of his cast to shine in their roles, mixing the dramatic and comic moments together beautifully. Megan Bruneault is the assistant director. Kathy's dances include many different styles. The show stopping dance is to "Totally Fucked" when Melchior is sent to reform school in the second act and it is astounding. Jeff's musical direction brings out the best in his cast and his musicians. The onstage orchestra sounds terrific. The hard working stage manager Becca Donald keeps the scenes flowing smoothly all night long while Fred designed the set and Lauren Schmidt did the costumes. The leading characters in this show are Wendla, Melchior and Moritz and are played by Amanda Palmer, Matt Gillett and Jon Carpentier. They all have topnotch voices. Amanda delivers the goods as this confused young girl who gets caught up in adolescence and tugs at your heartstrings in this show. 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 which is a beautiful ballad and sounds like 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 is a superb tearjerking moment in this show. Amanda gives a gutwrenching performance as Wendla. I last reviewed Amanda as Belle in "Beauty and the Beast".

Jon as Moritz has been traumatized by puberty and can't concentrate on his lessons. He is 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 where the boys perform a chair dance with pelvic thrusts, "And Then There Were None" about Moritz's devastation at Melchior's mother refusing to help him, and 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. Jon delivers a terrific performance in this dramatic, tear jerker role. Matt is superb as the tortured Melchior, who is the brilliant and fearless leader at school. His tenor voice soars in his duets as well as his solos. "All That's Known", "The Mirror-Blue Night" and "Left Behind" with the girls and boys. Matt brings tears to your eyes with his heartfelt portrayal. He shows off his falsetto voice in a couple of songs, too. I last reviewed Matt as Tony in "West Side Story". The show ends on a hopeful note as Ilse played marvelously by Alura Plante whose soulful voice sells "Blue Wind". She also sings "The Dark I Know So Well" about being abused by her father. Alura and the cast sing "The Song of Purple Summer" to close the show.

There is a scene in the show between the gay characters of Hanschen and Ernst that is hilarious which culminates in their kissing onstage .This happens as these young characters realize their attraction towards each other as it unfolds to the audience.Tom Lavallee plays Hanschen wonderfully. He has an hilarious masturbating scene as he and the boys and girls sing "My Junk". The girls do a dance around him. Paul Lucenti is marvelous as Ernst. He and Tom sing "Word of your Body" reprise. I last reviewed Paul as Ren in "Footloose".Other soloists include Emily Snidman,Nicole Franklin and Cassie Jones as Thea, Martha and Anna and the male soloists are Christian Herrera and Dillon Tognacci as Otto and Georg. Michael Harrison and Stephanie Rodger play the adult men and women in the show who are viewed as the villains. So for a fabulous contemporary musical, be sure to catch "Spring Awakening". It is one of the must see shows of the autumn season.

"Spring Awakening" (12 - 14 October)
@ Stadium Theatre, 28 Monument Square, WOONSOCKET RI

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide