BWW Review: SPRING AWAKENING Moves Audience
UAB (The University of Alabama at Birmingham) is known for its world class medical school and hospital and recently for having its football program cancelled and then reinstated. But what you might not realize is the superior theatre department that UAB has. After seeing SPRING AWAKENING there last night, I am convinced that UAB has one of the top theatre programs in the state, if not the country.
I cannot imagine that any other school has facilities any finer than the beautiful Alys Stephens Center and after seeing AVENUE Q there last year and SPRING AWAKENING this year, I continue to see that top notch venue being used superbly, not only technically, but with outstanding acting and directing from the faculty and talented students.
Madelyn Burrell as Wendla is a match for any professional actress. She comes across as totally believable in her innocence, even though in this day and age it is hard to believe there was a time when youth were so clueless and suppressed. Her emotional range and vocal range take her to a level of excellence that is rare in a performer of her age.
Seth Burgess as Melchior is a good match for Ms. Burrell and their scenes together are extraordinary. Burgess keeps that somewhat authoritative male stance even while trying to break down the stereotypes and barriers of the time period of the story.
Alicia Batterson as Ilse was another stand out to me, although in trying to choose outstanding performances I realized I should, in all honesty, name everyone in the cast. Throughout the performance I had to keep reminding myself that this was a college production, that I wasn't watching a professional cast. Each voice is better than the next and every member of the ensemble is superior.
The big group numbers, especially "Totally Fucked" and "The Song of Purple Summer" are overwhelming. The blend of voices and the rich sound is remarkable. Kudos to Carolyn Violi for her musical direction.
All of the adult women were played by Debbie Smith, who did a great job of handling each different character. The adult men were all played by Dennis McLernon who played the stern male (which they all seemed to be back then!) very well. It is good for the young student actors to get a chance to work with mature actors who are not their regular classmates.
The set is beautiful and although simple as far as props, the backdrop made a statement and was well used. I do wish the upper level had been used a little more, it added depth to the staging. The use of lighting and the lovely costumes made the whole thing come alive and was handled well. Directed by Valerie Accetta, this is a show you don't want to miss.
SPRING AWAKENING is definitely a play for adults. Some of the college kids in the audience laughed at times that I felt were serious, but I could tell it was nervous laughter because of the situations in the play. At other times the same audience was brought to silence and at the end sprung to their feet and cheered. The language, the adult themes and explicit sexual content make this a story that is hard to watch at times, but Theatre UAB handled it all realistically and beautifully, moving the audience to many different emotions.
Photo credit: Zachary Carpenter