At some social event, our table chatter fell to what our occupations were. A surgeon; two engineers, and a lawyer were our companions. When asked about my career, the muse said “He’s a theatre & concert critic”. The others immediately jumped on what they figured must be the apex of professions. Unlike their repetitive jobs, mine must be eternally new – only partially right. This brings me to McMaster Music Theatre’s production of SPRING AWAKENING. Seems like only yesterday (actually 11 weeks ago) we critiqued the same play!
Wedekind’s polemic 1890 play touches on the continual intergenerational gap and all the angst- causing ordeals faced by hormonal youngsters. Sadism, homosexuality, masochistic urges, suicide, incest, self-abuse & rape are all viscerally explored and presented on stage. MMT’s cast/ crew handled all these subjects with maturity…not so the opening night audience. *Ill-timed giggling and high C-sharp shrieking is more suitable to middle school than a University, kiddies!
First time director Brad Dunn has gone for the unsubtle; his emphasis is on impact both in the visual & lyrical sense. Great idea from the point of his artistic vision but unfortunately, the libretti are almost universally muttered (albeit with melodious tonality) rather than enunciated; certainly not projected. Given that Dunn’s set and props are bare minimum, the storyline infused in each aria becomes intrinsic to audience comprehension. We’re familiar with the various plotlines…God help the newbies!
The lead role is Melchior, the bright & independent man-about-the-campus. The girls yen for him; his buddies seek his opinion, and his tutors hate his inquisitive mind! Today, he’d be the Marauder’s 1st string quarterback! All that’s lacking in Shane Bowley’s portrayal is a little more charismatic ‘attitude’. His voice certainly meets all the requirements and his facial expressions mirror whatever he’s singing about. His young & ingenuous paramour is played by Haley Midgetta and she has a superb lyric-spinto ranged soprano voice. Midgetta’s demeanor constantly reflects the naïveté of her character and thus suits her ‘Wendia’. However, her vocal distension is almost nil. We in the fourth row (3 meters away) could not decipher most of what she said or sang. A contrasting oral performance came from Hayley Driscoll whose abused ‘Martha’ expressed all the self-guilt and anguish molested children feel.
Two very strong support players are Jason Wolwowicz as ‘Moritz’, the failing & gauche youngster who never reaches his hoped-for potential. Most males will identify with his portrayal…I did! ‘Ilse’, is portrayed by a dynamic Jill Kooymans who steals the show. Every facial expression, stance & body language underscores what she is exemplifying. This young lady certainly has a thespian future. In multiple adult roles, Graziella Mastroangelo & Matthew Bergen confer credible and sympathetic definitions of every one of their readings; quite a challenge that is successfully accomplished.
Dunn has chosen to have his orchestral octet under conductor Adam Despinic fully visible on stage. Non-intrusive, their lowered music-stand lights and black outfits amalgamate into the backdrop. However, a plastic baffle-wall might help lower the volume that occasionally overpowers the more fragile voices. The costumes are convincing; the lighting an effective vehicle to such a modest stage; and the choreography by Jennifer Enchin is first rate.
‘SPRING AWAKENING’ is erotic and disturbing…definitely gets an ‘adult content, mature supervision recommended’ label. But for all the others, if you haven’t experienced it, see it at Mac’s Robinson Hall … it’s on-stage until March 2nd.