BWW Reviews: Ignite Theatre's SPRING AWAKENING - A Stellar Ensemble!
Ignite Theatre pulled the ultimate coup with the regional premiere of SPRING AWAKENING, playing now through August 26th. The regional premiere of the rock musical sensation that won 8 Tony Awards comes to the Aurora Fox. This intense Broadway blockbuster musical centers on sex, the adolescents who want to explore it and the adults who neglectfully keep the truths of sex from them...sex in all its incarnations and darkest complications. Set in 19th-century small-town Germany, SPRING AWAKENING's tragic love story between innocent Wendla and bookish Melchior is a hard-hitting commentary on social repression that resounds plenty in the modern day. Theintense alternative rock music by Duncan Sheik made for electrifying theater!
Suicide, teen pregnancy, abortion, sexuality, child abuse and a play so risque that it was banned in Germany is my kind of show!!! As I was sitting there waiting for the show to start, I couldn't help but notice the ages of the audience and they were young (high school and college students) and fervent in anticipation. That's when it hit me - while my generation (Gen X) had their defining musical, fondly known as RENT, this was an entirely new generations musical. Even with this realization, I still thoroughly enjoyed the show. They incorporated several aspects from the Broadway production including the fun onstage seating with surprise guests, and handheld microphones that gave it that rocker feel (which I though was funny given that everyone had on headset mics). But of course this may just be all blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!
"Please God give me consumption and take these sticky dreams away from me!" really does sum up the theme of this hormonally coming of age show. This was ultimately puberty at it's best and worst. The entire ensemble sang and moved together so well and really brought out the great group numbers such as The Bitch of Living, My Junk, I Believe, Left Behind and the showstopper Totally Fucked! Brooke Singer as Wendla was fantastic. She showed full range of emotion and fantastic singing in her songs - from naive innocence (Mama Who Bore Me), to loss of innocence (The Guilty Ones) and realization of her actions (Whispering). Jack Thomas as her baby-daddy, Melchior was also quite good. His songs to shine were The Mirror Blue Night and Totally Fucked. While he was exceptional at singing, his acting was a little lacking (but still good) especially at the end of the show when he has lost his love and realized that he has also lost his baby. Ultimately what his character needed was a complete breakdown, but that was never achieved. Sometimes actors need to let themselves go to achieve that catharsis and bring the end result of healing to a satisfying conclusion of their character. I must say that both of the leads had great chemistry and their duet of The Word of Your Body was quite touching. Chris Russell Moritz was amazing as Moritz and this was his time to shine before gracing New York City with his talent. He really brought out the internal struggle that Moritz was facing up to his timely end. His powerful numbers were And Then There Were None and Don't Do Sadness. Andy Anderson was superb as the Adult Male and made the various characters unique and diverse. I especially enjoyed his portrayal of the devastated father of Moritz. Suzanne Nepi as the Adult Female was also fabulous and found humor in so many of her characters. Her shining role was as Wendla's mother and as Melchior's compassionate mother. Jessica Kincaid as Martha gave a haunting performance and her duet with Brenna Pritchard(Ilse) in The Dark I Know Well was quite moving and dramatic. Ilse was also superb in her duet and interaction with Moritz in Don't Do Sadness/Blue Wind. The reprise of The Word of Your Body with a gay twist between Ian McCauley as Hanschen and Parker Redford as Ernst was just adorable and the audience loved it.
The direction by Amy Osatinski and musical direction by Blake Nawa'a was spot on. They really pulled together such a youthful, energetic and talented ensemble that could tackle those hard issues while rocking out. The show flowed effortlessly and was just superb. The choreography by Cameron Turner was simple and really helped to enhance the songs, especially The Bitch of Living, Touch Me, Totally Fucked. Costumes by designer Laura High and Jennie Patten were simple and fun and I loved those school uniforms with attitude. A special kudos goes out to the Videography by Rob Rehburg and Implementation by Brian Freeland for the amazing video effects. This special effects didn't distract from the production, but only enhanced every aspect and were just stunning visual art. There was a lot going on for sound designer Tom Quinn with so many microphones and a live band, but there were no issues and everything sounded clear and great. Lighting by Jared Richardson and Karin Carter was thoughtful and really brought out the performances. The set design (by Benjy Schirm, construction by Mike Uhlenkamp, and painting by Joel Adam Chavez) was wonderful and the levels really added dimension. My only critic was that I noticed a gorgeous chandelier hanging above the audience and I wish that they would have utilized that more. I also commend Ignite Theater for dedicating each performance to one of the fallen from the Colorado Movie Theater Shootings with proceeds going to the victims funds.
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