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THEATRE: Spring Awakening

Written by Joel Callen on 4th March, 2010

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There is a raw and enthusiastic energy on the stage at Sydney Theatre. The production of Spring Awakening currently running is something very different to the flashy musicals one would see at Star City or the State Theatre. A contemporary rock musical, Awakening has its roots in Frank Wedekind’s 19th century play of the same title and is a coming of age story built around the hypocrisy of society when it comes to sex. Though parts of the subject matter are somewhat dated, the themes still resonate today.

The musical opened on Broadway and picked up eight Tony Awards in 2007 including those for Best Book and Best Musical. It’s not hard to see why. Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik’s musical builds on Wedekind’s insightful look into the world of teenagers with vociferous anthems and heartfelt ballads. The best of these, ‘Totally F***ed’ and ‘Mama Who Bore Me’ are filled with the confused emotions and powerful frustration felt as a teenager; still treated as a child by society but expected to act like an adult at the same time.

The Sydney production is not a replica of the Broadway version and the whole experience is completely refreshing. The stripped-back set is made up of ladders and scaffolding, concealing the band cleverly in plain sight at the back of the stage; while the costumes are relatively simple and bare. The choices made in the look of the show serve a dual purpose: the set serves as school, forest, church, graveyard and many others; and the costumes service all settings suitably. Without constantly changing colours and backdrops to distract the audience, the young cast are allowed to work magic with the material and they truly shine.

Director Geordie Brookman has coaxed raw and energetic performances out of the entire ensemble. Andrew Hazzard, as Melchior is commanding and compassionate. He ekes out a fine line between radical hero and Christ-like figure and carries the bulk of the show’s sizeable weight. Clare Bowen, as Wendla, is his naive but curious romantic counterpart and the love affair they share is both tender and believable. It is Moritz, played by Akos Armont, who is perhaps the character who will stand out the most for many. His confused and put-upon young boy is relatable for anyone who ever felt like they had been left behind.

All aspects of this musical come together so perfectly to create a whole that it is difficult to single out one single piece that stands out above the others.  But that is always the mark of an excellent musical. And this is certainly that; a wonderfully exposed balancing act between realistic teen angst and overplayed melodrama. Spring Awakening is a triumph.

Spring Awakening

Book and lyrics by Steven Sater | Music by Duncan Sheik | Based on the original play by Frank Wedekind

Directed by Geordie Brookman

Venue: Sydney Theatre, 22 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay

Dates: 4 February – 7 March 2010 (season extended) 2010

Time: 7.30pm

Tickets: $40 to $90

Bookings: 02 9250 1777 | sydneytheatre.com.au

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