BWW Reviews: SPRING AWAKENING, Greenwich Playhouse, June 11 2011
Based on Frank Wedekind's dramatized polemic against the sexually repressive culture of nineteenth century Germany, Spring Awakening - a tale of the sexual awakening of a group of teenagers with a beautiful and highly energised rock score by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater - earned 8 Tony Awards in 2007, including Best Book, Best Score and Best Musical as well as an Olivier Award for Best Musical. The show walks the line between humour and tragedy with perfect balance, making it a hugely entertaining and heartbreakingly powerful piece of musical theatre.
The power and heartbreak of the drama emerges out of the stories of a group of adolescents - including Moritz, traumatized by his puberty and his inability to fulfil the academic expectations of his father; Wendla, whose mother refuses to explain to her where babies come from yet is horrified and surprised when her daughter becomes pregnant; and Melchior, a brilliant and fearless rebel who dares to defy convention, becomes sexually and emotionally driven towards Wendla and embarks on a road to tragedy that is made almost inevitable by the misguided repression of teenage sexuality by the show's adult characters.
The new UK tour production - which paused for a week at the Greenwich Playhouse - directed by Pete Gallagher and choreographed by Cressida Carre, breathes new life into the show, taking a different spin on the way many of the scenes are presented. And on the whole I found the fresh approach worked really well. While I was not as convinced at the effectiveness of the final graveyard scene as I've been in previous productions, I felt the show as a whole had a great deal of vibrant energy and the innocence and awkwardness of growing sexual awareness was handled in a way that gave each scene a genuine ring of truth - particularly in the hay-loft scene where Melchior and Wendla succumb to their innate sexual desires. And the constant presence of a set of children's swings in the background - a metaphorical reminder of the spirit of youth - is a lovely touch.
Performance-wise every character in this production has been quite perfectly cast and all three principals in particular are outstanding. Billy Cullum captures the adolescent insecurity and sexually charged mental frustration of Moritz's tragic character quite superbly. Victoria Serra is an absolute delight as Wendla - the epitome of wistful innocence with quite beautiful vocals. And Jonathan Eio is a vocal tour de force while his interpretation of Melchior's character is charismatic, headstrong and charming but still sufficiently flawed to be believable.
Add to this the superb ensemble singing and the Spring Awakening tour production resonates with a genuine hue of Purple Summer.
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Robert Gould is a graduate of the University of Wales, Swansea, a former teacher, a writer of history books for schools (The French Revolution and European Nationalism, 1848-71) and the librettist and lyricist of a number of musicals. Collaborating with composer Ty Kroll, he has written the book and lyrics for the musicals, Lovers, Alone and Vocalize!. Concerts of songs from Lovers and Vocalize! were presented at the University of Wisconsin, Madison (in March 2002 and April 2003) and Alone received its world premiere staging in Madison, Wisconsin in April 2003. He has co-written the book & lyrics(with Jimmy Granstrom) for The Dying Game, a musical that speaks for the victims of HIV/AIDS in Africa (with music by Filip von Uexkull, Ty Kroll & Tristan Bons) - which received a showcase production at the Greenwich Musical Futures season in 2005. He wrote lyrics for the Tim Prottey-Jones albums More With Every Line and Surrounded By The Sounds and is currently developing the musical Roundabout with songwriter Joe Sterling and the musicals Based On A True Story, Elephant Juice, Grace Notes, Flop and My Land's Shore with composer Christopher J. Orton. |
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