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Questions bloom in 'Spring Awakening' PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sentinel-Tribune Staff   
Wednesday, 17 April 2013 10:37
Janina Bradshaw’s character, Martha (second from right), shows the other girls in “Spring Awakening,” (from left) Tader Shipley, Mariah Burks, and Hope Quinn the bruises from being beaten by her father. (Photo: Shane Hughes/Sentinel-Tribune)
"Spring Awakening," the title seems to demand an exclamation point.
"Spring Awakening" evokes the innocence of the season for blossoming, just the right metaphor for adolescents becoming aware of their emerging sexuality.
The theme of the musical is innocence, innocence in all its angst, roiling emotions, betrayals and folly.
The 1891 German play by Frank Wedekind turned into contemporary rock musical by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater depicts in graphic terms the sexual awakening of young teens, caught between childhood and the confusing demands of their bodies. They are precariously perched on the verge of adulthood, if they live that long.
"Spring Awakening," directed by Dr. Michael Ellison with musical direction by Jared Dorotiak, opens Thursday at 8 p.m. in the Donnell Theatre on the Bowling Green State University campus and continues Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2. Mature audiences only.
The play is set in a provincial German town in the late 19th century. This is a rigid society, full of secrets, short on joy, where parents protect their children's innocence by keeping them ignorant as long as possible. Stuffing their confused brains with Latin and sanctimonious Pablum. When Wendla (Hope Quinn) asks her mother "I'm an aunt for the second time and I don't know how it happens," her mother (Dr. Cynthia Stroud) snaps: "What did I do to deserve this kind of talk?"
The rebel source of such information is Melchior (Chad Campbell), the brightest boy in the school with a wide-ranging curiosity which at once makes him the golden boy, but also a troublemaker.
But this doesn't keep him from being humiliated by the school master (Geoff Stephenson) when Melchior stands up for his friend Moritz (Gregory Grimes), a poor student, doomed to fail.
The family, school and church serve to funnel their children into lives of conformity. That conformity is shown by having all the adults, more than a dozen characters, played by Stephenson and Stroud. To their credit they bring out individual shades in these multiple roles. Stroud even brings out the warmth of Melchior's mother, though her loving tendencies are hemmed in by society.
We cheer on Melchior as he bashes against society's strictures both with his eloquence and with his actions. Yet unguided, even misguided, this leads to pain and misgivings.
Melchior and Wendla's love story plays out in the society of their peers, all struggling with their own angels and demons.
Ernst (Austin Syar) is struggling with his attraction to men, feelings his friend, the more aggressive Hanschen (Patrick Scholl) encourages.
The girls are shocked when Martha (Janina Bradshaw) shows the bruises from the beatings her father gives to her. What she doesn't tell them is that he's also sexually abusing her. Ilse (Hannah Berry) has a similar tale. She leaves her family, sleeping at an artists colony, showing the hope and dangers of escape.
The characters - the cast also includes Tader Shipley, Mariah Burks, Brett Mutter and Tyler Stouffer - express their inner selves by bursting into sweeping rock ballads. Whenever affairs get tense, the actors sing. Grimes is striking in his solo turn "Don't Do Sadness" and a duet with Berry which brings together the pain of "Don't Do Sadness" with the longing for the simple joys of childhood, "Blue Wind."
As strong as each individual voice is, the way the chorus weaves throughout provides a context for characters' individual plight. The men singing low under the song "The Dark I Know Well" by Berry's Ilse and Bradshaw's Martha, adds to the terror.
After the pleading "Those You've Know" with solos by Campbell, Grimes and Quinn, the musical ends fittingly with everyone in full voice adding to rich soaring harmonies. Those musical chords are resolved. That is more than can be said of the fates of most of the characters and more than can be said for the questions this deep, sometimes troubling musical poses.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 17 April 2013 10:48

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