Friday, May 6, 2011

Spring Awakening at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts

Spring Awakening opening at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts and playing thru May 8th is a frustratingly beautiful musical that can hit you on so many different levels during the show and then when it's won you over it can then turn on you, with a why did that happen moment. Just like any teenage it felt like it had something to say but didn't know how to say it and then wanted to be several things all at once leaving no connection but in the end some hidden beauty that the viewer had to inject for themselves.

The show based on the 1891 Frank Wedekind play, is a combination of sexuality, morality and lots of rock and roll that allows teenagers to feel that they are not only misunderstood but are cool for for it. When the show opened on Broadway in 2006 it went on to win 8 Tony Awards including Best Musical and the cast recording picked up the 2008 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show and it's easy to see why. The music shifts the gamut from achingly beautiful ballads “The Word of Your Body,” “Blue Wind,” “Touch Me,” and Whispering” to full out arena rock songs like “The Bitch of Living”, “Left Behind,” and the showstopper “Totally F*****.” When these songs are put to the visuals of the staging and performance they can be spellbinding and stick with you far after the show is over with.

The cast is uniformly excellent Jim Hogan as Georg takes his lead role and dominates the proceedings with ease and turns on a rock star performance, Elizabeth Judd as Wendella is filled with innocence and a gorgeous singing voice. Coby Getzug's is given a difficult task of playing what could otherwise be the annoying friend and makes it a sympathetic character who has trouble handling the confusion of life and Courtney Markowitz injects Ilse with a stunning voice and a memorable sadness and is able to connect the dots with a character that doesn't seem to be there. These are characters as played by this talented cast who are feeling lost in their time but trying to find an identity while staying true to themselves basically anyone who is going though the difficulties of growing up and the hardships of the adults around them.

The Direction recreated from Michael Mayers original Broadway staging is handled by Lucy Skilbeck with the tour Choreography being done by Joann M. Hunter and this is where I had issues with the show itself. It felt like it was a smaller show being directed with moments of concert aspirations and it left me wondering if the show itself could survive without this over the top production values. It left confused as I thought there were scenes where the Director and Choreographer did more then they were required to and made things work as in “Left Behind” and turning Moritz into a wanna be rock star in “Don't Do Sadness” and then I thought there were moments that took me out completely from the moment as the use of hand held mikes when they clearly had body mikes most noticeably distracting when Wendela used one during “The Guilty Ones” and should have been a scene showing the magic of first love and not how we can switch from theater to rock concert in the blink of an eye.

It left me puzzled if this show could survive without the fascinating yet sometimes frustrating structural show concept and there were parts I felt torn during. As if this was a decision to further the show or a decision that felt like it was holding the show back which in essence is the definition of the right of passage for most teenagers into adults.

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