BWW Review: SPRING AWAKENING at Florida Rep is Powerfully Provocative!
Florida Repertory Theatre Education's conservatory production of SPRING AWAKENING brings topics that are often considered "taboo" for youth to life on stage, showcasing the dangers of a lack of education, discussion, and sympathy. This production of SPRING AWAKENING is especially important because not only does it allow the audience to view and discuss these topics, but the cast of the show is also comprised of mostly teenagers, and I think this fact makes it even more meaningful because a lot of the things happening in the show are things people their age actually deal with.
Katie Means plays Wendla Bergmann, and though I've seen her in a few shows now, I must say this is most definitely my favorite role I have seen her portray. She brought the naivety and innocence of Wendla to life while also revealing some of the curiosity and inner desires Wendla comes to realize and reveal during the show. I also really enjoyed her performance vocally; from "Mama Who Bore Me" to "Whispering," and everything in between, I thought she did a beautiful job.
Isaac Kueber plays Melchior Gabor, and his performance was truly stunning. He brought so much vulnerability and raw emotion to Melchior, and I thought his acting was incredibly mature and showed a strong range of talent. He portrayed the intelligence and rebellion of Melchior perfectly and did a fantastic job of showcasing Melchior's determination even through the tragedies of the story.
Sawyer True plays Moritz Stiefel, and I thought he did a wonderful job telling Moritz's story. This is a very tough, emotional character to play, but he was incredibly captivating; you couldn't help but feel for Moritz as he dealt with some very tough and tragic things, and this was thanks to True's excellent performance.
Brice Kingsley plays Hanschen Rilow and Matteo Occhino plays Ernst Robel, and I thought they both did a great job showing the personalities of their characters as they dealt with their sexuality in a time and place where it was also a "forbidden" thing to even question. Though this storyline isn't really at the forefront of SPRING AWAKENING, it is also important to consider, and the differences between Hanschen and Ernst a s they embrace this awakening are important to note as well. I also want to give a special mention to Patrick Mounce and Cantrella Canady, who played all of the adult characters in the show. They were fantastic at making each role, though sometimes very brief, distinct, and I have to applaud that.
This entire cast was wonderful. The raw emotion, power, and harmony they showed throughout the show was superb. From more emotional songs like "I Believe" and "The Song of Purple Summer" to the more upbeat ones like "The Bitch of Living" and "Totally Fucked," they all showed phenomenal talent. I also have to credit Director Kody C Jones, Musical Director Rosalind Metcalf, and Choreographer Susanna Young for doing an amazing job guiding this cast. Set Designer Jordan Moore, Costume Designer Renee Baker, Lighting Designer Drew McDaniels, and Sound Designer Katie Lowe all did marvelous work on this production as well; it felt seamless, and I thought all of these aspects were created perfectly for this show.
Though SPRING AWAKENING deals with a lot of intense topics, the style of the show is a bit darker, which I feel subdues the situations happening in the show in a way that allows the audience to really listen to what's being told and understand the message being sent through this story. Yes, the show deals directly with sex, teen pregnancy, suicide, abuse, sexuality, and more, but it is told in a way that invites the audience to contemplate how dangerous it can be to shield young people from learning about these subjects and then become frustrated as they witness how these teens are quite literally punished for even talking about them. I would absolutely recommend seeing Florida Rep's SPRING AWAKENING if you have the chance; in fact, I plan to see it again during one of its last 4 performances. It was really that good.
SPRING AWAKENING is playing for only a few more shows; August 15-17 at 7 pm, and August 17 at 2 pm. To get your tickets, visit https://tickets.floridarep.org/TheatreManager/1/online. Tickets are $10 for students and $20-25 for all others. Just a note: this show is recommended for ages 16+.
Photo Credit: Joe Dafeldecker