SPRING AWAKENING – The Musical
23/02/2013 - 09/03/2013
NEW ZEALAND PREMIERE “SPRING AWAKENING” – The Musical
SPRING AWAKENING the timeless story of teenage self-discovery and anxiety in a powerful celebration of youth and rebellion.
Based on the infamous 1891 Frank Wedekind play, set against the backdrop of a repressive and provincial late 19th century Germany, SPRING AWAKENING features an electrifying score by Duncan Sheik, book and lyrics Steven Sater, direction by Richard Neame (CHESS 2012, RENT 2011), musical direction by Chris Moore (CHESS 2012, ASSASINS 2010) and choreography by Teesh Szabo (CHESS 2012, ASSASINS 2010) at Westpoint Performing Arts, the home of Auckland Music Theatre, Meola Road, Westmere. 23rd Feb – 9 March 2013. WINNER 8 TONY AWARDS INCLUDING BEST MUSICAL! – told by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater through “the most gorgeous Broadway score this decade” (Entertainment Weekly) – SPRING AWAKENING explores the journey from adolescence to adulthood with poignancy and passion you will never forget.
Auckland Music Theatre Inc., the longest-established musical theatre company in the Auckland region, has a proud and distinguished history is proud to present this landmark musical.
SPRING AWAKENING is an electrifying fusion of morality, sexuality and rock & roll that is exhilarating audiences across the nation like no other musical in years.
“Broadway may never be the same again!” Charles Isherwood, The New York Times
R16: This show has adult themes, sexual references, nudity and coarse language.
Auckland Fringe runs from 15 February to 10 March 2013. For more Auckland Fringe information go to www.aucklandfringe.co.nz
Spring Awakening plays
23rd February – 9th March 2013
Westpoint Performing Arts Centre
120mins $35 Adult
$30 Senior/Student 16yrs +
Lacking in playfulness and danger with some exceptions
Review by Glen Pickering 25th Feb 2013
I preface my review with this: Should Auckland Music Theatre have produced Spring Awakening? Absolutely! It is a brilliant musical. Should it be part of the Auckland Fringe Festival? No.
‘Fringe theatre’ can be difficult to define, but to me Spring Awakening is not a Fringe show. It is a heavily work-shopped, multiple Tony Award-winning, Broadway musical.
If you do an established piece, you need to make bold choices and take bigger risks to make it a Fringe show. AMT’s production stays true to original productions in costume, set and style, and whilst, to some, the content may not be traditional, it remains true to musical theatre conventions.
The only way this would be considered Fringe theatre is if AMT were to break out of the original and traditional realms and do something completely new with it. A different location, perhaps, or focusing on different performance styles? This is the necessary treatment for Spring Awakening to earn its place as Fringe theatre.
AMT’s Spring Awakening is enjoyable though. It is set beneath an oak tree which stands tall and proud upstage centre. The show opens with a half dressed girl aloft a chair, caressing her body. She asks God to help her control these strange new desires and feelings. Her mother enters, tells her to get dressed and informs her she is “in bloom”. She has entered a new chapter of life.
Based on the well-known Frank Wedekind play (1891), Spring Awakening follows 10 teenagers entering this new chapter as they explore sexuality, discover friendship, revolt against family, endure violence, deal with death and realise the confusing messiness that is being a teenager. We travel with them in and out of their school, personal, private and public lives. Still set in the late 19th Century, it reassures us that teenagers have always and will always face the same wonders and problems through the ages.
AMT’s production stays very true to previous overseas productions, where the use of extra set pieces and props is sparse, with only the bare essentials being used. Richard Neame’s direction works best when he does the same and trusts simplicity. ‘The Word Of Your Body’ and ‘Whispering’ standout for exactly this. Overall Neame has directed a solid and visually enjoyable production.
Teesh Szabo’s choreography is strong and engaging. It is particularly effective in the numbers ‘Touch Me’ and ‘Totally Fucked’. The cast have varying dance abilities and on opening night there was tendency to over-energise the movement, which unfortunately muddied some of Szabo’s fine choreography.
Chris Moore’s 10 piece band work Duncan Sheik’s beautifully haunting and menacing score masterfully, with the strings in particular extracting the subtle complexity that lie beneath the rock. Unfortunately the sound design is not consistent, with the balance and mixing needing attention. Likewise Andrew Potvin’s lighting design is inconsistent, changing styles throughout seemingly without reason.
The cast is made up of 10 young performers and 2 ‘Adult’ performers who play all the varying adult characters.
There is a generally tendency to overact, affect and push too hard, leading to a lack of subtly and nuance in the performances. What is most absent is a true sense of playfulness and danger which this piece really requires. I’m sure the playfulness will come once the cast relax into the season and start exploring, however the danger can only come from the performers playing less of the ‘musical theatre style’ and finding more truthful, connected, honest performances.
There are a few exceptions. Heather Wilcock’s Wendla is the standout. Her voice is something special. She has an incredible ability to tell story, convey emotion and truly connect to a song, the highlight of the night being her enchanting and haunting ‘Whispering’.
Clayton Curnow has a beautiful voice and he creates an equally beautiful, open-souled Ernst who is innocent and charming. Brie Hill’s Isla is raw and vulnerable and Ian Fenwick, playing all the ‘Adult Male’ characters, transitions wonderfully from task master teacher to stoic father. Fenwick also gets the most clever and heartbreaking of Szabo’s movement during the funeral scene. The truth that Fenwick displays in this moment is exactly what the other performances require. It is simple, honest and rips through you.
If you are musical theatre fan, go. You will not be disappointed finally seeing this piece being staged for the first time in New Zealand. It is an enjoyable production with some beautiful music and moments. If you enjoy more the risk and reward of Fringe theatre then another show might be a better choice.
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Rock & Angst
Review by James Wenley 25th Feb 2013
“Forget every other Musical you’ve ever seen” says the pre-show announcement voice as the lights dim for Spring Awakening. It’s a statement that is more about marketing hype than the show’s ability to offer something new to the form. Sure, its themes of suicide, masturbation, and sexual abuse are risqué, but nothing that are not presented in a confrontational enough way to be piercingly challenging to an audience. It’s still conventional Musical Theatre to a fault.
Spring Awakening the Musical is based on German Frank Wedekind’s 1890 play, which did prove too much and was banned in its time, and was not performed until 16 years later. As a Rock Musical, Spring Awakening is very much the inheritor of Hair and later Rent, which used that music genre to explore the angst and rebellion of the younger generations. Except here the angst is transplanted to 1890s proto-teenagers with a distinct indie-rock vibe. The 2006 Broadway Musical, hardly Fringe, won the Tony Award for Best Musical, ran for just over two years, and was career making for Glee stars Lea Michelle, Jonathan Groff and Jenna Ushkowitz. Auckland Music Theatre finally debuts the New Zealand Premiere for Auckland Fringe in a production that is suitably rough – if not quite ready. [More]
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer