Review by Nathan Top What is the cost of discomfort? As parents, what is the price we pay by keeping our children in the dark?
CCM’s mesmerizing production Spring Awakening takes the audience on a joyful and heartbreaking rollercoaster ride and explores the consequences of enforcing adolescent ignorance on necessary truths about puberty and sex.
Based on Frank Wedekind’s play of the same name, Spring Awakening is a cautionary tale centered around teenagers in nineteenth-century Germany who are having their first hormonal rumblings, getting louder with each passing moment. When their questions to their parents on the topic of sex are met with hostility and discomfort, Melichor, an intelligent and rebellious atheist in his all-boys school, provides answers while, at the same time, discovering his own sexual desires. With book and lyrics by Steven Sater and music by Duncan Sheik, Spring Awakening is a Victorian period tragic teen sex comedy juxtaposed with angsty anachronistic folk-rock music and winner of several Tony Awards including Best Book, Best Original Score, and Best Musical.
There is definitely not a lack of talent in the cast. Grace Marie Rusnica gives a tremendous and unguarded performance as Wendla, a naive and curious teenager wanting to understand her own sexuality, nailing her opening number “Mama Who Bore Me.”. Declan Smith as the student sex-guru Melchior gives a show-stopping performance (“Totally F****d”) as well as a heartrending rendition of the show’s most challenging solo “Left Behind.” August Bagg gives a moving performance as the tragic Moritz, most memorably with his duet “I Don’t Do Sadness/Blue Wind” opposite Sarah Jane Nelson as Ilse. The entire cast glows on the large cast numbers with both dance and vocals, notably on “The B**** of Living” and “The Song of Purple Summer.”
Director Hannah Ryan’s show flows like a well-made film, breathlessly fast and enthralling. For as many musical numbers as the show has, there are surprisingly few clap breaks for the audience and they are not missed. Scenic designer Charlie Calvert has created a simple and sophisticated set that matches Ryan’s fluid vision of the production, leaving lots of room for the actors to engage with the beautiful script and score. Kristen Peck’s light design works well with Calvert’s set, alternating the mood between placid rural settings and rock-concert musical numbers with elegance. Costume designer Meredith Buckley and wig & make-up designer Kelly Yurko have created several versatile looks for the cast, some of which movingly develop as the show’s characters do.
Musical director Julie Spangler has incredible musicians at their disposal on and off the stage. The choral blend of the cast is as tight as I have heard and the chorus numbers are stunning. The pit is incredibly tight and settling with the overall drama of the narrative. Choreographer Jess Zylstra’s contemporary dance numbers are so athletic and playful, I didn’t even mind being flipped the bird a couple of times throughout the show.
The work of fight director k. Jenny Jones and intimacy director Torie Wiggins have created a climate where this cast can be trusting and vulnerable with each other as well as the audience, which is incredibly important considering the sensitive scenes and subject matter of the show.
Tickets to CCM’s Spring Awakening
If you are looking for a fun and edgy show that leaves an impression long after the final bows, CCM’s Spring Awakening is the show to see. Running now through April 16th, online tickets are sold out but available seats will be sold at the CCM box office one hour before curtain.