Review: BTC’s Spring Awakening

Spring Awakening is a musical that is best approached with some prior knowledge of the show’s history and content. Originally developed as an off-broadway show, this cotemporary adaptation of Frank Wedekind’s 1891 play presents a story of the rather violent sexual awakening of a group of teenagers who are growing up in a strict Christian society and authoritarian school system. The musical adaptation contains some intentionally confronting images and ideas, but does so amidst high energy rock music and with moments of cheeky fun. The show’s sense of satire is clearly directed at those elements of contemporary society that still resemble the 19th century Germany of which Wedekind’s play was so critical.

Blacktown Theatre Company’s production of Spring Awakening approaches the story with just the right degree of intimate abandonment. The production is, in many regards, just like the teenagers it depicts; energetic and lively, sometimes lacking subtlety, but full of the in-your-face attitude and confidence that makes it so much fun to watch.

The young actors that make up the core ensemble in this production approach their roles with a contagious enthusiasm, and possess a strong chemistry that supports the two leads and helps carry the audience through many of the more confronting scenes. The performance has some rough edges, but the collective charisma of the cast makes this less of an intrusion and more a part of the charm of the whole production.

Both Nicole Lotters and Julian Luke do a great job in the lead roles of Wendla and Melchior, but where the show really comes alive is in the big chorus numbers where the rest of the talented cast members get the chance to show their stuff. The night we saw this show there were some scenes in which the fast-paced dialogue was easy to miss, though there did appear to be some teething problems with the audio. During the musical numbers volume, however, energy and clarity were not issues and the overall experience was enjoyable.

Staged in the hall of a segregated boys/girls school, the set effectively captures the spirit of teenage angst and rebellion, mixing classic portraiture and art with posters and album covers of deviant musical icons such as David Bowie, Bob Dylan and the Ramones. Surrounded by raw and polished timber, the effect is of a timeless teenagers bedroom that is both intimate and strange, rustic and refined. However, these visual elements are mostly on the periphery, leaving the performance space itself quite bare and open to the effective use of a few chairs, other props and lighting effects to transition scenes throughout the show.

Blacktown Theatre Company’s Spring Awakening does a good job of capturing the sense of raw, hormone-driven emotion that is the heart of this show, and is true to the spirit of the story in both it’s staging and performance.

For ticket information visit the Blacktown Theatre Company website at http://blacktowncitycommunitytheatre.com.au/

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