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Review: ‘Spring Awakening’ rocks tradition in bold musical

Conveyed with raw intensity, Lake City Playhouse presents its preseason production, “Spring Awakening.”

The mature-themed rock musical by Duncan Sheik (music) and Steven Sater (book and lyrics), adapted from Frank Wedekind’s 1891 controversial play of the same name, offers an emotionally stirring depiction of teenagers grappling with sexuality in a society where such a matter is not discussed. The play also sheds light on other taboo topics, including abortion, homosexuality, child abuse, incest and suicide – how education and religious values intersect with these issues as well as the consequences when they aren’t addressed.

The show’s cutting-edge material, which meshes the setting of 19th-century Germany with a contemporary score of melodic folk, pop/rock and raging punk arrangements, earned the original Broadway production eight Tony Awards in 2007, including Best Musical and Best Original Score, and a Grammy for Best Musical Show Album in 2008.

Wearing the era-appropriate attire of buttoned-up, navy blue school uniforms, long stockings and dowdy, high-necked dresses (expertly costumed by Jamie Russell), the 11 young cast members (known as the “boys and girls”) still masterfully express the angst, fear, confusion and rebellion characteristic of modern-day adolescence. With chilling vulnerability and noteworthy direction by George Green, they deliver the haunting lyrics, “O, you’re gonna be wounded/O, you’re gonna be my wound,” of “The World of Your Body.” Under the musical direction of Zachariah Baker and well-conducted by Mike Saccomanno, they also rip through the show’s blaring rock numbers with thrashing vengeance. Overall, the orchestra setup works except for a group of six backup vocalists in costume, hidden behind the musicians, who could use more visual presence on stage.

Abby Anderson and Ross Mumford give exceptional performances as the innocent and tragically naive Wendla and jittery, mohawked Moritz. Anderson and Jordan Taylor, who plays Wendla’s handsome and worldly love interest, Melchior, exhibit the tumultuous passion required of the two characters. Director Green also acts in the show, playing multiple adult male roles alongside Janean Jorgensen, who plays all of the adult female roles, including Wendla’s mother Frau Bergmann, who is too embarrassed to tell her daughter the truth of how babies are made.

The set and lighting design by Green and Dan Heggem articulates the show’s contrasting visual themes of dreariness and hope in a dark, oppressive classroom encircled by vibrant gerbera daisies in bloom. This theme is reiterated through the use of warm, rose-colored lighting in Ilse’s (Siri Hafso) tender bohemian ballad, “Blue Wind,” in opposition to cool, bold flashing hues during Moritz’s clamorous punk solo “Don’t Do Sadness.”