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Theater Review: “Spring Awakening”

(courtesy of Andy Snow)


“Spring Awakening”

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Pantages Theatre
Through Sunday

By Vy-Vy Dang-Tran

Feb. 11, 2011 10:35 a.m.

Set in a small, repressive German town in the 1890s, “Spring Awakening” is anything but Victorian. The play is a coming-of-age story that follows a group of 10 young students as they navigate though teenage angst and sexual self-discovery.

Now on its second national tour, the musical opened Tuesday night at the Pantages Theatre with a brand-new cast. “Spring Awakening” continues through Sunday.

I had high expectations for the performance. The original Broadway show won eight of its 11 nominations at the 2007 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Choreography and Best Lighting Design. The original cast recording won the 2008 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album.

The curtain opens to reveal in the background a huge brick wall adorned with various objects ““ chairs, paintings and mirrors ““ each piece awkwardly forced into its place, as if stuck there against its will. Imagine this backdrop juxtaposed with a scattering of brightly colored bulbs and neon lights that mechanically dropped and lifted from the ceiling to illuminate the stage like stars. At first, both came together in a clutter, giving the audience too much to take in.

But as the story unfolds, the effects prove to evoke much more of the characters’ conflicts than one would expect.

On the one hand, the wall reflects the strict rules of the adult world seeking to institutionalize its youth in school, church and marriage, and, on the other hand, the lights embody the wild and romantic whims of the adolescent world discovering passion, freedom and love in spite of these restrictive surroundings.

In terms of vocals, the women of the cast outshone their male counterpart, for the most part. But Coby Getzug, who plays Moritz, an emotionally fragile boy under a massive amount of pressure from his parents, stood out to me.

Although Getzug’s vocals were, at times, rough and poorly timed, his energetic body language and ability to act while singing (and head-banging) on stage drew in the audience immediately. And it’s not just because of his bizarre hair, which morphs from a half-shaven punk flop in the first act to a stiff, vertical block sculpted atop his head with God knows how much pomade.

Overall, the cast pulled itself together by the second act, giving beautiful, clean performances of “Those You’ve Known” and “The Song of Purple Summer,” the musical’s closing numbers.

The show’s rock ‘n’ roll score, performed by a live band on stage, is a refreshing change from the traditional orchestra in the pit. The play addresses emotional issues of sex, violence, homosexuality and suicide.

The lead actor, Christopher Wood, plays Melchior, a young pseudo-philosopher and classroom heartthrob whose knowledge of sex, acquired from books, ignites a sexual awakening among his peers.

“Spring Awakening” sends an important message to the audience about the necessity of sexual education and open-mindedness, which in itself is reason to see the show. And I have no doubt that future performances at the Pantages will improve as the cast gets its bearings and grows more comfortable in its new tour location.

E-mail Dang-Tran at [email protected].

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