Young cast is “exceptional, thrilling and brave”
Charlene Baldridge | Downtown News
When playwright Frank Wedekind wrote “Spring Awakenings” (plural correct) in 1891, the story stirred up tremendous controversy in contemporary Germany. It was not produced until 1906.
No less incendiary, Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik’s 2006 Tony Award-winning musical had a long road to Broadway but not for exactly the same reasons. Their musical, “Spring Awakening,” was based on Wedekind’s play. The creators chose to make it a rock musical, because they believed that rock music best exemplifies teenage angst and frustration.
Sater and Sheik were told it would never work. Nonetheless, the piece received six 2007 Tony Awards including best musical, best book and best musical score, assuring further productions, starting off with a national tour that played San Diego’s Balboa Theatre.
As soon as regional rights became available, Cygnet Theatre Company secured them; however, the Cygnet delayed until now because two local youth theaters’ productions intervened.
Known for his prowess with musicals, co-founder and artistic director Sean Murray stages the work through April 27 at Cygnet’s Old Town venue. Terry O’Donnell is music director, and Michael Mizerany is the choreographer. The result is a kinetic, emotionally moving, well-played, well-sung production that will become even more so as the run deepens. There were a few rocky spots, sound
imbalances and musical imperfections opening night March 15, but that is to be expected in a work so complicated as performed by youthful singer/actors, most between 15 and 24. A hidden six-person band plays the score with a relentless beat that follows one home, along with songs and lyrics that include “Mama Who Bore Me,” “The Bitch of Living,” “The Word of Your Body,” “Totally Fucked,” and “The Song of Purple Summer.” Matt Lescault-Wood is sound designer.
The book revolves around three teens, Melchior (Dave Thomas Brown), Moritz (Charles Evans, Jr.) and Wendla (Taylor Aldrich). All three are excellent singer/actors possessed of exceptional talent. The chemistry between Brown and Aldrich is palpable and thrilling. Evans presents a deeply conflicted Moritz.
Matt Thompson and Debra Wanger ably, sometimes frighteningly, portray all the adult characters — teachers, parents and preachers. Jacob Caltrider, William Corkery, Claire Keefer, Adi Mullen, Dylan Mulvaney, Amy Perkins, and Christopher Ruetter create specific, endearing young people, and Katy Tang is splendid as Ilse, the town’s free-spirited sexual pariah, who has great heart. Ilse sings the lovely ballad “Blue Wind” and with Perkins and Tang sings “The Dark I Know Well,” which concerns parental sexual abuse.
Caltrider and Mulvaney are adorable as budding homosexuals and William Corkery, a 20-year-old student at Grossmont College, is a real find as the gauche Otto. His dance moves are brave. Mizerany asks much of the troupe and they deliver.
Melchior is a gifted student, bright and inquisitive about all things, especially the burgeoning of feelings he and his peers experience, the lack of accurate information and suppression of what is known. When Moritz confides he’s troubled over “sticky dreams” of female legs, Melchior provides a handmade sex manual of his own devising. Wendla is not so fully or gently informed. Tired of her mother’s stork stories, she asks for the truth and is put off, and thus goes into relationship with Melchior, whom she loves, uninformed and unprepared. Ensuing events, though tempered with humor, rock ballads and anthems and dance, are truly tragic.
The Cygnet production is enhanced by Ryan Grossheim’s scenic design, Shirley Pierson’s period costumes, Peter Herman’s wig and makeup design, Chris Rynne’s lighting, and Angelica Ynfante’s props.
Fans of the musical, who’ve seen it on numerous occasions, will no doubt return for another performance, so sensitively directed by Murray. For tickets visit cygnettheatre.com.