Spring Awakening

Tue 6th – Sun 11th August 2013

reviews

Kate Wilkinson

at 00:54 on 8th Aug 2013

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For anyone not familiar with ‘Spring Awakening’, this is not your cheery, light-hearted musical, despite the hopeful title. Based on the German 1891 play, its material explores the anxieties of being a teenager in a culture of suppression. Tragic consequences ensue and a range of issues are portrayed including abortion, homosexuality, child abuse and suicide. Given the serious nature of the subject and melodrama of the plot, any production of this show requires delicacy and maturity. And this is exactly what Washington drama company, Ophiuchus Rising, delivered.

I was extremely impressed by everything I saw from the cast, all high school students apart from the two adult characters. Each performer displayed that elusive thing- ‘star quality’. The singing was faultless throughout and the cast mastered complicated routines. A particular highlight for me was the song ‘Touch Me’ in which Moritz (Jake Zeisel) was raised by his fellow cast members. Smaller parts were given their moment to shine and I was compelled by Katherine Paterson and Aliza Daniels’ vocal performances.

Even more impressive was the combination of youthful innocence and maturity that the cast brought to difficult scenes. I admired Lucas Weal’s bravery and commitment to his bold lusty character, Hanschen. Ryan Savage gave a sensitive performance as Melchior, the disillusioned and angry young hero. By the end, tragedy was written in the lines of his young face. Julia Medine gave a tender performance as Wendla and opened the show with sensational vocals. The two actors performed well together as the central couple. Jake Zeisel was deeply moving as the tormented Moritz and his final song was beautiful. At times, I was unsure of elements in his story, but I think that the original script may have been a little shortened out of necessity.

Adults come off badly in this show. Sara Wright and Christopher Gerken fulfilled the roles of a number of adult characters, most notably the two antagonistic teachers. Their characterisation went little further than caricature, however they provided some welcome light relief. As director, Garken has done a fantastic job in guiding his talented cast.

The technical effects operated like clockwork throughout the show. The bang of the gun combined with lowered lighting was particularly powerful and sent tremors through the audience. The staging worked well with most of the cast on stage at all times, occupying a few rows of chairs at the back of the stage to demonstrate their solidarity.

I would expect these young stars to go on to even greater success and I hope this exciting company will return to Edinburgh in years to come.

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Megan Stodel

at 01:31 on 8th Aug 2013

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This was my first time seeing ‘Spring Awakening’, a musical that has earned much acclaim. It tells the stories of a group of adolescents living in 19th century Germany, dealing with their sexuality and the ways in which society judges them. I found the story compelling to start with, but as it went on, an increasing number of serious issues were dealt with superficially and the show ends deep in melodrama. I am unconvinced that more than a couple of heavy storylines should exist within the same show, as inevitably none will be dealt with well when each is only afforded a few minutes of exploration. Therefore, I wasn’t terribly keen on the musical itself, however, Ophiuchus Rising has brought a good quality production to the Fringe.

I was impressed with the consistent excellence of the singers. Julia Medine, who played Wendla, has a beautiful, clear voice and was very capable considering how significant her part was. Katherine Paterson was also magnificent as Martha: her rendition of ‘The Dark I Know Well’ was rich and haunting. In addition, the female chorus was particularly wonderful. They worked well as a group, their harmonies spot on, and the lyrics were clear even through musically complex passages.

There was also a generally good standard of acting. Notably, Jake Zeisel was an entertaining Moritz. I also thought that both the adults in the production, Sara Wright and Christopher Gerken, were strong. In addition, the general choreography throughout the production was well done.

I found the musical accompaniment less enjoyable. The synth-y keyboards were irritating. Worse, it was often so loud that it was impossible to properly hear the singers. All the cast had microphones but, as far as I could tell, they were ineffective and there were whole minutes of the show I lost to the blaring of a simulated string section.

This is a good production of an unusual musical. At just under two hours, it is quite a commitment for a Fringe show, however, the cast are delightful and keep the audience interested. It is a worthwhile watch if the intense storyline is your cup of tea.

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Comments

Chris Gerken; 10th Aug 2013; 13:20:06

Thanks Kate for the kind and generous review. On behalf of the company and all the students involved I send our appreciation.

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