Spring Awakening (Musical)

The Playhouse, 31 Albany Street, Dunedin North, Dunedin

01/11/2023 - 11/11/2023

Production Details

Book and lyrics by Steven Sater
Music by Duncan Sheik
Based on the 1891 German expressionist play by Frank Wedekind

Director: Kim Morgan
Musical Director: Bridget Telfer-Milne
Choreographer: Olivia Larkins

PopUp Productions NZ (https://www.popupproductions.nz/)

Multi-Tony / Olivier / Grammy-award winning musical adaptation of Wedekind’s seminal—and oft banned—play. A coming-of-age rock musical about the profound angst of being a teen, alternating between late 19c Germany and contemporary musical stylings. CONTENT WARNING: this show deals explicitly with teenage sexuality (hetero- and homosexual), consent, sexual repression, religious oppression, suicide, abortion, incest, and domestic abuse. It also includes strong language. Recommended for audiences 13+ (as per the age of our main characters), with parental guidance.

1-11 November (1-4, 8-11 Nov @7pm; 5 Nov @4pm)

N.B. 1 Nov is a Student Preview, bookable by private link only; 8 Nov is a Student Night, bookable via the link below…

$54.95 (General Admission); $29.95 (Student Preview); $34.95 (Student Night – Valid secondary / tertiary school ID must be shown at entry)

Proudly produced by Pop Up Productions NZ (PUPNZ)
By Arrangement with MTI Australasia

Booking link

William Larkins (Melchior)
Lexie Tomlinson (Wendla)
Max Beal (Moritz)
Destiny Carvell (Ilse)
Oli Morphew (Martha)
Savannah Taylor (Thea)
Shannon Burnett (Anna)
Jacob Blomfield (Hanschen)
Jay Bailey (Ernst)
Mason Bouzaid (Georg)
Max McCormick (Otto)

Arlie McCormick (Adult Women)
Darrel Read (Adult Men)

Producers: Arlie McCormick & Bridget Telfer-Milne
Production Manager: Heidi McGregor
Marketing & FOH: Kane Welsh
Stage Manager: Sacha McConnon
Lighting Design and Operator: Jordan Wichman
Sound Operator: Dylan Shield
Costume Coordinator: Sofia Kalogeropoulou
Costume Assistants: Kim Morgan, Arlie McCormick, Jordan Wichman
Technical Direction, Scenery & Props: Matthew Morgan

Musical , Theatre ,

2hr + Interval

Safe space to explore sexual awakenings

Review by Andrew McKenzie 04th Nov 2023

Originally written in Germany in 1890-91, Frank Wedekind’s Spring Awakening was a daring exploration of burgeoning adolescent sexuality set against a backdrop of oppressive 19th century religious and educational mores. It confronted the society of its day with the reality that their teenagers were not only thinking about but were indeed having sex. Like so many landmark works, it caused scandal and outrage when first produced but is now routinely viewed as a key work of modernist theatre – although few companies dare actually stage it. A century later, Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater have revived the storyline for this American musical production, keeping the 19th century German setting and largely sticking to the original plot, and winning 8 Tony awards for their efforts. What the new work seems to lose in jagged, modernist angularity is gained in accessibility and showstopping tunes, and it has gone on to enjoy numerous successful productions and revivals around the globe. 

This is one of only a few productions of Spring Awakening: The Musical in New Zealand, and Pop Up Productions NZ has made strong use of the intimate Playhouse Theatre’s resources. Using a stripped back, bare stage, director Kim Morgan and her team of performers, choreographers and technicians have sculpted the space into sensual configurations that move us fluidly through the different locations. The school rooms and dormitories of the first act were particularly effective in their simplicity and provided some of the climactic highlights of the action, drawing humorous responses from the audience as performers enacted what might be described as a kind of proto-Sex Education (the hit Netflix show) highlights-reel. The first act ends with a climax that is deftly handled and tastefully done, capturing the trepidation and excitement of young love. A scene in the second act involving more youthful intimacy is similarly handled, again showing taste, gentleness, and careful emotional nuance.

To this reviewer’s ears, the music was often exquisite, both in the composition and the delivery. The style sits somewhere in the mode of the contemporary rock musical but mixes in elements of 70s folk and the occasional flirtation with classical. The pre-recorded soundtrack, appropriate for the pit-less theatre, contained a violin line that delicately entwined through songs, acting as a lodestone for direct, unadorned yearnings. The presence and singing of the ensemble in many of the more sensitive or tender scenes lent ethereal beauty and emotional support that created a counter-text to the touching and sometimes (intentionally) awkward or ridiculous aspects of adolescent sexuality. The solo singing was uniformly strong across the talented cast, with highlights from Lexie Tomlinson and Max Beale in their roles as Wendla and Moritz. Will Larkins as Melchior wove beautiful harmonies through many of his shared numbers, although technical difficulties with his microphone in the first act diminished some of his impact.

The show’s theme of youthful sexuality versus a rigid societal framework is a perennial one throughout art and literature, and the show explores several avenues of this, some more deeply than others. Arlie McCormick and Darrel Read, as the Adult Women and Men of the play, authentically provide the social rigidity for the younger cast to rail against. Their two respective – and contrasting – big emotional moments at different points of the action provide some of the most memorable moments of the show. Against them, the youths’ energy, innocence and temerity was able to shine bright. Although it is difficult to imagine this musical version ever creating the discomfort and danger the original play did on its premiere – the songs and subtle rewrites provide too compelling a siren call to fully contend with the sharp edges of the matter – it powerfully captures the sensitive, yearning, and touchingly human aspects of the work.


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