“Spring Awakening” – Phoenix Theatre/Nearly Naked Theatre
This review aired on KBAQ June 18, 2012
EXEMPLARY “SPRING AWAKENING” JOINTLY PRODUCED BY PHOENIX THEATRE AND NEARLY NAKED THEATRE
Phoenix Theatre/Nearly Naked Theatre
The sexual awakening and coming of life of late 19th century repressed German youths is thoughtfully explored in the exemplary Phoenix Theatre/Nearly Naked Theatre co-production of “Spring Awakening.” If you haven’t seen this musical, the local production rivals the Broadway staging and is superior to the disappointing touring production that stopped at ASU Gammage a few seasons ago.
“Spring Awakening” is based on a controversial 1891 German play that was thought to be too honest and upfront. The 2007 show was a huge Broadway hit winning that year’s Tony Award as Best Musical. The show has a sharp book and insightful lyrics by Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik’s rollicking rock ‘n’ roll score dazzles. The musical allows the many diverse characters to explore what life is all about in their own individual and unique ways. These young people don’t have any parental tutelage because their elders are embarrassed to talk about these sensitive subjects with their kids.
Since the two theater companies jointly produced the work, Robert Kolby Harper and Damon Dering staged the show. Although the two directors have different approaches and styles, their work here looks crisp and sharp and the action takes on the best characteristics of each director. Their diverse styles mesh artfully. Mark 4Man leads the small orchestral ensemble in a rousing rendition of the fine score. The unit set serves the various locales well and the historic costumes paint these characters as the simple working people they represent.
The superlative cast includes many exceedingly talented young local performers who are excellent singers and accomplished actors giving the production a winning professional sheen. The tricky score demands excellent vocalists with superlative musical chops.
There’s not a weak performance among the 15-person cast. Two mature performers, Susan St. John and David Weiss, essay the older roles and give them diversity and dimension, something not always the case even in the Broadway original where the older characters all appeared too similar.
Cooper Hallstron is perfect as the quirky and experimental Melchior while Katrin Murdock as the probing and alive Wendla couldn’t be better. The on-the-edge Moritz is played with passion and sincerity by Matthew Cordon. The remainder of the cast is convincing and become these diverse and impressionable youngsters who mature into responsible adults.
Spring Awakening” is not a pretty musical but a gutsy, reality piece that exposes the challenges of growing up without clear guidance and how resourceful young people stumble and bumble but take the necessary steps to become productive adults.
“Spring Awakening” earns five stars out of five and continues to July 1. It deserves to be seen. For tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 800-982-2787 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.