The teenage angst was pouring out of the young cast both metaphorically and literally (it was a very hot and humid evening in the Old Town Hall) as they performed Stephen Sater (book and lyrics) and Duncan Sheik’s (music) superb and rarely performed Tony winning 2006 rock musical “Spring Awakening”.
Based on German expressionist playwright Frank Wedekind’s controversial 1891 play “Fruhlings Erwachen”, (which as recently as 1963 was banned from the British stage), “Spring Awakening” tells the story of a group of pubescent teenagers coming to terms with their sexuality in a repressed bourgeois town in Germany and the title refers to the awakening of their nascent sexual feelings.
It’s a tale of underage sex (both straight and gay), masturbation (quite a lot of it), lust, repression, sado-masochism and angry young men trying to come to terms with modern thinking in a conservative milieu. It could be seen as a morality play as those that transgress the standards of their elders, come to sticky ends but I doubt if that’s what the bohemian, free-thinking Wedekind meant when he wrote it and it should be seen as a celebration of adolescent sexuality in the face of little or no sex education as well as an attack on conventional, adult morals.
Congratulations to Major Productions who have used the musical as a showcase for some wonderful young talent who (in most cases) trained at The Urdang Academy which is also based in the wonderful Grade II listed building that is The Old Finsbury Town Hall. Director Laura Checkley only had two weeks to rehearse the graduate cast of fifteen for the three sold out performances and her hard work has paid off in spades. The restrictions of the space were cleverly surmounted with the use of the floor as a thrust stage and a number of raised platforms in and above the audience. A “band” of just two – piano and guitar (with the occasional percussion) – supplied the music led by musical director Jo Cichonska. There’s not a weak link to be found in the cast with the three leads Colin Kiyani as “Melchior”, Wesley Bromley as “Moritz” and Lydia Rose Bertie as “Wendla” all in tremendous voice. Special mention must go to Anna Middlemass who after a slight shaky start grew into her numerous roles as all the adult women and Sam Barnes who was superb as all the adult men – but the entire cast deserve a lot of praise too.
This was a wonderfully vibrant performance from a company who put everything into showcasing their emerging talents to the full in a musical that although based on a 19th century play, still resonates with today’s audiences more than 120 years after it was first performed.
Review by Alan Fitter