I attended the preview performance of SPRING AWAKENING at Steel River Playhouse in Pottstown. While I had read a lot about the show, I was unprepared for what I saw take place. Before you go, make sure you are aware of the subject matter and how it’s handled.
SPRING AWAKENING is a rock musical set in the late 18th century (makes for a little confusion there, eh?) based on the controversial play of the same name which was banned for some time in its native Germany for the frank portrayal of abortion, homosexuality, rape, child abuse, and suicide. The subject matter is handled with the infusion of music and dance to help offset the bluntness of the material.
The production centers around several story lines…one involving the naïve Wendla (Maddie Aicher) and Melchior (Matt DeGeitano) who find their way to each other and have sex (or is it rape?) one night in a hayloft. A second story is about Moritz, a student who is suffering from dreams that he thinks are an indication of insanity, until Melchior assures him that all adolescent males have similar dreams. A third story is of Hanschen and Ernst, who classmates who discover their own sexuality. There is so much more to these stories…I can’t do it justice in this short of a review.
The cast of the show was very good. All the voices were strong and energetic, with very few problems with the material. Kudos to Director Dr. Beverly Redman and Music Director Deborah Stimson-Snow for assembling and rehearsing such a fine cast. The set is minimal and functional…a bare stage with chairs carried in by the cast members for their scenes as necessary. Lighting was also functional…I suspect there were problems with the electronics, as several scenes were not as well lit as they should have been. Scene changes were crisp and effective.
I had a couple issues with this production, one of which is the material itself and the direction thereof. The cast is predominantly high school and early college students, so they were roughly age-correct for the material. The paradox is that the material requires a subtlety that the younger actor cannot always carry off. Each of the cast members did very well, but there was a lack of polish that I can only attribute to an inability to truly connect to the material. I was troubled as an audience member by a couple of the scenes where the sexuality was more graphically depicted…there is no nudity, but there are scenes where there can be no question as to what the “students” are doing. I felt uncomfortable, not because of the material, but because of my awareness of the age of the actors…and I suspect there were some grandparents in the audience that shared my discomfort.
That being said, this is a tight production. The music is driving, and quite good. The actors do well in their respective roles. It’s just a bit too voyeuristic for my taste.
Book and Lyrics by Steven Sater, Music by Duncan Sheik
Based on the play, “Spring Awakening” by Frank Wedekind
Directed by Dr. Beverly Redman
Music Director – Deborah Stimson-Snow
Orchestra Director – Barbara Newberry
September 26 – October 13, 2013
Steel River Playhouse
245 East High Street
Pottstown, PA 19464