BWW Review: SPRING AWAKENING at Round House Theatre
Spring Awakening is the classic teen coming of age story, plus death, group masturbation, nudity, and a failed abortion.
The musical follows the story of teenagers of a town in 19th century Germany, based off of the play by Frank Wedekind of the same title. The group must navigate schoolwork, sexual fantasies, abuse, and complicated relationships with parents with very little knowledge of the world, particularly when it comes to sex. This creates tensions between the adults and the children and even tension between the children themselves.
The show's front runners consist of Wendla (Christina Sastre), Melchior (Evan Daves), and Mortiz (Sean Watkinson), the story revolves around these three, their relationships with each other, and their relationships with others.
Christina Sastre was a real standout for me, with an incredibly easy and ringing voice, and an innocent disposition. Her Wendla exudes sweetness and concern for others, making it all that more devastating to see her fall from innocence.
Sean Watkinson and Evan Daves gave a performance of two young men, one very certain and the other much less. Both had interesting character arcs, as Melchior goes from thriving on his knowledge, to having it ultimately lead to his downfall. Moritz has a similar undoing as he goes from an energetic young man to a very lost boy with suicidal thoughts. It was interesting to see both create such multi faceted characters throughout the show.
The rest of the cast consisted of the adults, all adult men played by Bobby Smith and all adult women covered by Tonya Beckman. These actors might have been the most interesting part of the show. The way the show is written, you feel the need to root against them, however I think with them covering all the adults of the show it made all their characters that much more fascinating. I found both of them to be so engaging because they differentiated their tracks so distinctly, no longer making the adults wholly bad, but multifaceted.
The rest of the ensemble consisted of the youth being Ilse (Jane Bernhard), Anna (Katie Rey Bogdan), Georg/Dieter (Carson Collins), Otto/Ulbrecht (Michael J. Mainwaring), James Mernin (Ernst), Hanschen/Rupert (Christian Montgomery), Thea (Kalen Robinson), and Martha (Chani Werely).
The show contained a lot of movement, choreographed by Paul McGill. I enjoyed most of this, as this show has a lot of room for creative interpretation. I felt that a lot of the time the movement had the potential to take over the scene and its intent, but it mainly stayed out of the way and accented the show eloquently.
I also particularly enjoyed the scenic design by Adam Rigg. A highlight for me was the backdrop of the portrait of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, emphasizing the period of innocence for the children. At the end of the First Act, during the number "I Believe" the cast ripped down the backdrop as Wendla and Melchoir consumatted their relationship. I really enjoyed this aspect, and I wish the theme of innocence vs. innocence lost was explored more throughout the show as I found it to be very compelling.
Overall, I did enjoy the performances of the show, but I feel there were themes or thoughts that would begin to develop, but never fully come to fruition. And even though I enjoyed it, I wouldn't say that this show is for everyone. If any of the content in this review makes you uneasy, it might not be the show for you.
Spring Awakening runs through February 23rd at Round House Theatre in Bethesda. For ticket information, go to https://www.roundhousetheatre.org/On-Stage/Explore .