Spring Awakening: MT strips back and wows

Do you remember being fifteen? Awful, wasn’t it? MT’s production of Spring Awakening revisits all the feelings of that turbulent time – confusion, boredom, anger, fear, and of course, the all-encompassing sexual frustration. Based on German playwright’s Frank Wedekind’s radical tale of the dangers of sexual repression in the nineteenth century, Spring Awakening keeps the original setting and characters, but adds a pop-rock score, perfectly fitting the lives of a village of restless teenagers. The headstrong, clever Melchior easily influences the naive Wendla, who just wants to finally feel something in her life, and Moritz, Melchior’s best friend, struggles with his own feelings of sexual attraction and inadequacy. It’s a cocktail of controlling parents, school stress and teen angst. In other words – a recipe for disaster.

You can’t be shy when approaching a musical like Spring Awakening. Fortunately, MT attacked with gusto, injecting boundless energy in every song and, to their credit, absolutely committing to every potentially awkward explicit theme or scene on stage. MT put together a strong cast who did justice to the soaring, lush choruses of the ensemble songs. ‘Totally Fucked’ was a blast of wry humour, anger and spirit from everyone. The cast’s harmonies were pitch perfect and seriously impressive, especially from the boys in ‘The Bitch Of Living’, which had some great riotous choreography to match.

Olivia Gould should be applauded as the innocent Wendla, her voice confidently carrying all of her solos and yet still coming across as wide-eyed and bashful opposite Max Woodall’s vocally strong, fantastic and self-assured Melchior. However, Josh Wren as Moritz was the breakout star, providing some comic moments in the first act, but successfully adding layers to his character as Moritz’s story developed. The desperate, powerful ‘Don’t Do Sadness/Blue Wind’ became a standout. Jess Moncur’s and Katie Dawson’s beautiful solos in ‘The Dark I Know Well’ showed just how talented the whole cast were.

MT stripped Spring Awakening back to its bare bones with a sparse set – a few chairs, a raised platform, and one very strategic hay bale – but the minimalistic approach worked, reflecting attention back to the characters’ universal struggles. MT also did well in the new venue of the Refectory, as our beloved Riley is out of action. On the tech side, apart from one slightly too short blackout, everything came off flawlessly, and the brightly coloured lights really helped add to the youthful feel of the performance.

What’s most memorable of course is the fantastic score, and Musical Director Jake Pople did a fantastic job of giving us Duncan Sheik’s music, which can have you jamming in your seat one minute and then silently sobbing into a tissue the next. Some of the actor’s lyrics were lost to the sound of the band, but it happened rarely and that was my only complaint, and hardly a fair one when the band were having to contend with playing in a separate room below and involve lots of tech to get the sound on stage.

Congratulations to Directors Sophie Rush and Charlie Norburn are in order for bringing us such a wonderful, energetic and beautiful musical.

Heather Nash

Image courtesy of Rob Palin

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