BWW Review: Riveting SPRING AWAKENING IS at Eight 'O Clock Theatre
When a teenage girl asks how babies are created and your answer is "love only your husband with your whole heart. Now you know everything," serious repercussions are bound to occur.
Young people wanting answers and adults refusing to give them is the theme of Eight 'O Clock Theatre's newest production July 13-22, a dark coming of age tale, Spring Awakening.
Written in 1891 with modern folk-rock music and lyrics applied by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater in 2006, Spring Awakening is a story of friends growing up in Germany, girls and boys discovering their sexuality with no one willing to guide them. The musical covers topics like abuse, homosexuality, masturbation, sadomasochism, suicide, and abortion. It frankly explores what happens when parents are too prudish to discuss the hormonal urges that come with impending adulthood.
This ambitious production is showcased on a beautifully-designed thrust proscenium with a leveled and raked stage. From the live band under the masterful direction of Justin Havard, lighting and scenic design by Dalton Hamilton, sound design by Sean Quinn, props by Alexis Roberts, costumes by Trish Kelly and the breath-taking special effects in act two that I cannot figure out, excluding a slight mic issue, the resulting performance at Thursday's final dress rehearsal is spectacular.
Spring Awakening follows the lives of Melchior, Wendla and Moritz as they and their friends transition from child to adult with no instruction on how to do this.
Complimented by the adult roles played by Ashlie and John Timberlake, director Jason Tucker and assistant director Christina Capehart showcase the talents of the 15 young people with unnerving intensity. From banging fists to dances on chairs to simulated intercourse, this is a high-energy remarkable production, highlighting taboo topics.
Spring Awakening stars Rachel Tata, Blake Royster, Justine Nelson, Martin Powers, Dylan Armstrong, Noah Pliss, Brianna Fallahee, Jack Dunham, Lauren Crandall, Ashton Sarlo, Cody Carlson, Christian Feliciano, Chelsea Hooker, Jonathan O'Brien and Anissa Perona as the youth wanting answers.
Two of the lead characters Wendla (Rachel Tata) and Moritz (Martin Powers) become sacrificial lambs to the adult stupidity.
Wendla is confused and confides in her mother. Her mother agrees to answer her questions with Wendla's head in her lap covered from her mother's view. Her mother doesn't provide the information necessary to protect against an unplanned pregnancy and Wendla falls victim to her own innocence.
Moritz is tormented over poor grades and feeling shameful over sexual fantasies. He confides in friend Melchior (Blake Royster) who is willing to share a notebook and diagram about sex for his friend. His father's disgust in his implied failure pushes him to his breaking point.
I love that Jason used of the actors not in the scene as part of the set decor. This tightly choreographed musical showcases a cast of strong singers and dancers. Every actor led to the success of the production; not a miscast role in the bunch.
Blake is a dynamic Melchior. His voice is a combination of power coupled with tenderness. With a beautiful singing voice, Rachel skillfully negotiates the necessary balance between Wendla's naivety and the burgeoning sexuality. Their performance of "The Word of Your Body" was poignant and beautifully staged.
Unraveling, Martin leaves you at the edge of your seat with the raw emotion and rock star personification. Any song performed by Martin leaves you wanting more.
The ensemble who portrayed Wendla and Melchoir's school friends were exceptional on their own, but also worked in perfect harmony as a group.
"The Dark I Knew Well" performed by Martha (Justine Nelson) and Ilse (Lauren Crandall) about sexual abuse literally turned my skin to gooseflesh.
Act 2, which is the stronger of the two acts, revealed the results of the sad path the children were set on by adults' cruelty and repression in Act 1.
Eight 'O Clock Theatre's incredible production of Spring Awakening shows the loss of innocence and its devastating consequences. By the close of the show, we are left to reflect on how something written in 1891 could sadly still have such complete and utter relevance 127 years later.
Spring Awakening is at Central Park Performing Arts Center, 105 Central Park Dr, Largo, Florida 33771 on July 13-22. Performances are Thursday at 8 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. ASL Interpreters will be provided on Thursday, July 19. This show contains strong adult language, sexual content & situations, and references to suicide and death. Parental discretion is advised. Tickets may be purchased online at www.largoarts.com/ticket.php.