Spring Awakening, written by Steven Sater with music by Duncan Sheik, vocal arrangements by Ann Marie Milazzo and string orchestrations by Simon Hale is a rock musical set in nineteenth century Germany. It is about the struggles teenagers go through as they discover their sexuality as well as the struggles of being youths in a world where adults are in charge of what they do and what they know. The groups of boys and girls help each other tread the waters of adolescence as they discover new things about themselves and their bodies on stage.
The show itself was a rather large undertaking for Theatre Western as its subject matter is far from PG and even disturbing for some. Dealing with sensitive topics is never easy and Theatre Western’s ability to handle them with class, professionalism and even a little humour is commendable.
Director Raffie Rosenberg chose a minimal set for the show, which worked largely to their advantage as the actors dominated the stage with the amazing choreography of Rosenberg and assistant choreographer Lara Watson. Their dance filled the stage with great energy and presence and—paired with incredible vocals—was most definitely one of the best parts of the show. The starry backdrop incited a dream-like setting, signalling to the audience that they could get lost in the performances on stage.
Benjamin Braz as Melchior and Teri Michalargias as Wendla are a great pairing. The two of them match each other in talent and energy making their performance that much more enjoyable. Jack Phoenix incited laughter and tears from the audience with his quirky yet wonderfully heartbreaking performance as Moritz and Taylor Van Binsbergen as Ilse served as a great opposition to Moritz, all the while doing an incredible job portraying her character and the hardships she goes through.
There were, however, a few shortcomings in the show. The band, while playing wonderfully, often times drowned out the voices of the actors. The blackouts between scenes were very long as well. Considering how small their set was, there should be no need for such long, awkward pauses between scenes. The house lights went up too fast just before intermission as well, not giving the actors on stage—who were in a very precarious position—enough time to exit. Finally, a set piece with a ladder and high chair was positioned upstage in the centre and seemed to be quite useless. Besides the time Melchior spends sitting on the chair (which seemed a little unusual in the first place), the piece is never used and appeared to serve no other purpose.
All things being said, the show itself was still enjoyable. The storyline is something many people can relate to and touches on issues that are important in our everyday lives. The discovery of someone’s sexuality for the first time is shown as a beautiful and important milestone in life and is addressed in both a heart warming and heartbreaking manner in the show.
Spring Awakening continues to run at the Mustang Lounge (in the University Community Centre) until March 5th at 8pm each night.
Tickets can be purchased at the door or online at Eventbrite
**Please be advised of the explicit content warning as the show involves sex, profanity, suicide and reference to drugs.