"Spring Awakening" (Griffin Theatre): Profound Innovation!

"Spring Awakening" (Griffin Theatre):  Profound Innovation!

Recently, my nine year old niece, Sabrina, casually strolled right into a sex talk.  No birds and bees.  No hushed cloaked questions.  She just started girl-chat with a ‘I saw the period movie Aunt Katy.  And boys?  Uh, they have it so easy.’  I was a little stunned.  I grew up in a conservative Catholic household where sex was not talked about.  Those conversations were left to friends not family.  But I want my niece to feel comfortable talking to me about anything. So, I swallowed my nervous giggly panic and let her tell me about boys and sex.

Griffin Theatre presents the Tony Award-winning musical SPRING AWAKENING.  In late nineteenth century Germany, the teenagers want some answers.  The infallibility of their education is being questioned.  As puberty kicks in, they want to know what’s going on. Where do babies come from?  What is a wet dream? How does it feel to be hit? Classmate and village stud Melchoir is reading around his school subjects to broaden his knowledge.  His friends want him to share his information.  Through his writings or demonstrations, they want to understand their feelings and bodies.  In the sleepy, stoic village, the rebellion against morality has started.  SPRING AWAKENING arouses the senses with a good old-fashion lust story.

In 1892, Playwright Frank Wedekind shocked the world.  Wedekind explored incest, abortion, suicide, homosexuality, child abuse, S&M.  He put taboos onstage for people to squirm about.  Fast forward 100+ years, Steven Sater (books and lyrics) and Duncan Shiek (music) re-imagine the past with the present.  The setting and dialogue is late 1800‘s Germany but the music is pure modern-day rock and roll.  When the teenagers sing, their music is the high-energy revolution variety.  Under the musical direction of Alison Kane, the band blasts with a heart-thumping concert vibe.  Choreographer Nicole Pellegrino adds to the contemporary theatrics with synchronized, forceful, uprising-inspired movement.  This sublime cast effortlessly goes from submissive to disobedient by pulling a microphone out of a pocket. Costume Designer Izumi Inaba follows the contrasting trend by dressing the youthful cast in folksy, drab attire but with colorful high-tops. The look and sound is profound innovation.

The entire cast is harmony on hormones!  They just come together perfectly in concert.  At the heart of the story, Aja Wiltshire (Wendla) and Josh Salt (Melchoir) have this tender yearning for their friends’ struggles.  Collectively and individually, Wiltshire and Salt are charmingly beautiful.  On a stark and industrialized set designed by Marianna Csaszar, emotions fill the empty spaces.  Director Jonathan Berry stages the show for optimal intimacy.  On a runway style stage, the characters connect to each other and to the audience.  Berry masterfully uses light and fallen chairs to demonstrate death.  The imagery is powerful.  The feeling is unforgettable.

This is your wake up call!  No snooze button option. Get to SPRING AWAKENING!

A little choked up during “The Song of Purple Summer,’ Shawn describes it with ‘really truly wonderful!’


Running Time:  Two hours and thirty minutes includes an intermission

At Theatre Wit, 1229 W. Belmont

Based on the 1892 play by Frank Wedekind

Books and lyrics by Steven Sater

Music by Duncan Shiek

Music direction by Alison Kane

Directed by Jonathan Berry

Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm

Sundays at 3pm

Thru January 8th

Purchase tickets by calling the Theatre Wit box office at 773.975.8150.

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