Content warning: some explicit words, all song titles.
Duncan Shiek’s adaptation of the musical Spring Awakening, directed by John Sandham, is perhaps the most ambitious play of the KTS’ 2015 Fall season. Set in Germany in the 19th century, the musical tells the story of sexually repressed teenagers discovering themselves in a highly moralistic culture, and is known for integrating an alt-rock sound into an otherwise ‘traditional’ folk soundtrack.
Costumes aside, Sandham’s stage is very bare of any period trappings, which is very in keeping with the play’s universal relevance as a tragic coming-of-age story. He isn’t afraid, however, to let his rendition of events really go big.
Spring Awakening’s score comes to life in the form of a little sextet comprised of Emmett Watters on the guitar, Nuala Polo playing the piano, Curran McConnell on the bass, Joseph Fish playing drums, Tess Roll-Morrison on the Cello, and Edie Reaney on the violin.
A few minor false notes aside, they absolutely nailed every number that comes their way, from the electric “Bitch of Living” to the decidedly sombre “Those You’ve Known.” As the foundation of the show, their musical performances were nothing short of incredible.
The show’s vocal and dramatic performances were somewhat inconsistent, but ultimately they lived up to Spring Awakening. Melina Zaccaria and Nate Lambert really had good chemistry as the play’s two lead roles, Wendla and Melchior. Zaccaria brought the right innocence to Wendla, and did a great job with her solos – of particular note was “Whispering,” which I thought was one of the finest performances of the night. Lambert, on the other hand, really showcased the raw power of his voice on numerous occasions, from his earliest number “All That’s Known” all the way to the end of the play. Lambert did have trouble getting to the higher ranges, however.
Chris Spencer’s Moritz brought the right awkward energy to his scenes, but his singing didn’t seem as polished, and what is considered to be his standout song “Don’t Do Sadness” and its reprise are weakened as a result. Likewise, the quartet of male support roles are all over the place: Thomas Jestin was perhaps the only member of the four who could keep up with Lambert and Spencer.
The female vocal support was a good deal stronger than the male side, with Dina Gang, Meg Collins, and Hillary Allister as the town girls really shining through in all of their numbers. Abby Borron as Ilse was also a standout, and her song “Blue Wind” was a high point in Act II. Furthermore, the performances of Liam Morantz and Julia Shultz as all of the adults in the play’s action were darkly comic throughout, and were always a delight on stage.
The staging of the musical was quite moving on many levels: the great group ensembles “Bitch of Living,” “Totally Fucked,” and the final number “Song of Purple Summer” were perhaps this Spring Awakening’s strongest numbers, with a great deal of creative choreography that worked more often than not.
A few bouts of stage combat could be cleaned up a bit, but Spring Awakening has so many moving parts that it’s honestly a testament to all of the musicians, actors, producers, and directors that everything worked as well as it did. A couple of minor issues aside, Sandham has delivered on his promise of a ‘totally-fucked’-up love affair with Spring Awakening.