In front of a truly enthusiastic audience on Tuesday night, the Tony Award-winning rock musical “Spring Awakening” charged onto the stage at Proctors, providing theatergoers a magnificent production of a provocative and daring modern musical. Littered with blunt language, a bare bottom, an exposed breast, and song titles you cannot print in the newspaper, “Spring Awakening” reveals more than just adolescent angst. The show uncovers the end result of questions asked, answers dodged and lies told.
Frank Wedekind’s infamous play shook 1891 Germany with its brutally honest portrayal of a group of school kids entering their teen years facing the future, with no one offering truth. Wedekind holds back no punches as he deals with the issues of sex, love, unwanted pregnancy, masturbation, homosexuality, incest, abuse and teen suicide. Exploring the nature of shame and its role in society, Wedekind rightly skewers those adults who withhold for the sake of appearance, and fear.
From this tale of dark emotion, musician Duncan (“Barely Breathing”) Sheik and poet/playwright Steven Sater have crafted an electric musical capturing Wedekind’s social comment and teen angst, and have wrapped it in a pulsating rock score with haunting ballads of reflection and anthems of energetic frenzy.
WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: 8 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $65-$20
MORE INFO: 346-6204 or www.proctors.org
While the subject matter may not sound like an entertaining evening, I can tell you it is an effort not to be missed.
Blessed with a first-rate cast, the ensemble-driven show is filled to bursting with talent seldom seen in people so young. Christy Altomare and Jake Epstein are earnestly engaging as the central couple, Wendla and Melchior, around whose fateful romance the evening swirls. Altomare scores with the questioning ballad in front of the mirror at the start of the evening, “Mama Who Bore Me” and voices the second act “Whispering” with a chilling visceral clarity. Epstein’s command of youthful ideals and purpose is charismatic, well played and sung, reaping genuine earned glory in his solo, “Left Behind.”
Click here to read Gazette theater writer Bill Buell's preview.
Taylor Trensch’s hair-raising performance as Moritz is off-the-charts good. Capturing all the twitch and fear of a rabbit trapped, Trensch finally frees himself with the stellar “Don’t Do Sadness,” bringing it to further success as it morphs into wonderful counterpoint duet with the spot on Steffi D’s mournful “Blue Wind.”
John Wojda and Angela Reed portray the society-strapped adults with textbook precision and provide truthful emotional glimpses of the parents at moments in between. The sad final trio with Melchior, Wendla and Moritz is brilliant, capturing all things learned with hope for the future.
Everything about this production excels. Bill T. Jones’ award-winning choreography and Michael Mayer’s inventive staging have been well re-created for this tour. Kevin Adams’ smart and simple canopy of lights illuminates the stage, floating like fireflies and stars on a warm spring night. The onstage band, led by Kristen Lee Rosenfeld, lends strong support when warranted and the lighter touch when not. Christine Jones’ set design incorporates touches of whimsy from a school kid’s pencil box, portraits of authority, butterflies, a blackboard with rules and a long mirror to reflect the action back onto the audience.
An astonishing coming-of-age experience, “Spring Awakening” is a show that demands to be seen, not just for its originality of vision, but for its daring to push the envelope. And while the subject matter may leave you wary and the language shock your ears, none of that matters. For as delicate and “purple” as the subject matter may be, the end message is one of hope, with one generation presenting the next with an unfinished canvas with the potential to create a world that was only imagined.