BWW Review: SPRING AWAKENING at Musical Theater Heritage
Spring Awakening presented by Homegrown Theatre Company at the MTH Theater
HGTC's production of Spring Awakening, a folk-rock musical directed by Hersh Ellis, at the MTH Theater in Crown Center brings to life the gritty music of Duncan Sheik and the timeless lyrics and book of Steven Slater. From an original story, written in the 1800's about teenagers coming of age in provincial Germany, one finds the oppressive nature of religious conservatism shown through the angst of progressive young eyes. Themes of injustice, homosexuality, teen pregnancy, masturbation, suicide, and conforming to strict rule compel a group of young people, questioning the unfairness of their world, to rebel. This production is true to the original story depicting a dozen young people making their way through the thrillingly complicated and mysterious time of sexual awakening.
As the show opens we find the beautiful young Wendla (played with a coy innocence by Lily Nicholas) exploring the mysteries of her blossoming womanly body, wondering aloud where babies come from until Mama tells her to shut up and get dressed. A fearless young Melchior (a confidently dashing and well voicEd Scott Salem) interrupts a rather dull Latin drill to defend his buddy Moritz (a frantic yet charming Thomas Delgado) who is having difficulty focusing since he is so obsessed with his jaunt through puberty. The uncaring Headmaster lashes out and tells them to turn in their lesson.
Later, in a private place in the woods we find Melchior and Wendla discovering one another as they too soon lose their innocence (questioning if they were both knowing and willing participants). Moritz, having been unfairly undermined by his teachers, flounders and falls out of school. Moritz, feeling abandon by all the adults in his life, becomes distraught and unable to hear even the earnest promise of life offered by his outcast friend Ilse (a talented Adrienne Rose Bengstsson). In a world where grown-ups hold all the cards, the blame for Moritz fall is placed on Melchior. Mama soon learns her little Wendla is pregnant with Melchior's child and she promptly shuffles her off for a backstreet abortion. As his punishment (though he does not know about the pregnancy) Melchior is exiled to a reformatory.
Melchior eventually liberates himself from his struggles and runs to meet his beloved at midnight. Overwhelmed by the truth Melchior contemplates suicide while voices from his past push him to remember them, as they will now walk with him in his heart.
A number of the cast pull double duty as instrumentalists in this show which is quite impressive. While the men of the cast provided the raw grittiness the script commands, the women seemed a bit more tentative. At times, a few in this young cast seemed to rely too heavily on mic's when, given the compact performance space, they could have easily belted to the back row. As a result, more lyric voices seemed a bit lost. Sharp character development provided some standout performances and there were some fresh interpretations providing levity and fun for such an intense show. Given the small stage, the choreography (by Fernando Moya Delgado) was clean, precise, and added punch where needed.
The show runs through August 20th, 2017 at 7:30 pm
Tickets at http://musicaltheaterheritage.com