28 January 2011

Review: Spring Awakening

Spring Awakening
The Young Australia Broadway Chorus and Matthew Henderson
27 January 2011
National Theatre, St Kilda
to 5 February

Spring Awakening was the big winner at the 2007 Tony Awards and the Young Australia Broadway Chorus (YABC) are giving Melbourne its first look at the show that made teen idols of its cast and made the New York Times declare that "Broadway may never be the same again".

Based on a banned and censored German play from 1891, it's about a group of teenagers learning about sex and desire in a world and a time that our contemporary sensibilities call oppressive. With masturbation, sex, homosexuality and suicide, it is as relevant as any teen story ever was and reminds us that being 17 really can be a bitch. What helps this story scream to us today is that creators Steven Sater (book and lyrics) and Duncan Sheik (music) infused it with music and lyrics as angry and passionate as the souls on the stage.  Songs in musicals show us the inner world of the character, so it's natural and perfect for these already-wounded young adults to sing "You're Fucked" and dance like their great great great great great grandchildren will.

The choreography, design and direction reflect the original production and it's easy to see why Spring Awakening has been such a hit.  The band show how amazing the score is and let the singers be at their best. However, there seems to be a problem with the mix as lyrics were getting lost in the cavernous National Theatre, which made following the details of the story difficult to follow.

The teenage cast, most whom already have significant experience in YABC productions, bring such authentic passion and experience to the stage that you'd swear it was created for them. The principals own their roles and each bring a bit of themselves into the story to make the emotion and connection stronger.  The ensemble,  who remain on stage for most of the show, are professional and supportive and create the atmosphere to carry the story forward.

There's no doubt that many of these performers will be on our stages for a very long time and will remember this Spring Awakening as one of the shows that made them love musical theatre.

This review appears on AussieTheatre.com

Preview video by YABC cast

Broadway cast at the Tonys

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