The eight-time Tony Award winning, Spring Awakening, recently opened at The Lower Ossington Theatre in Toronto. The Broadway rock musical, which originally starred Glee‘s Lea Michele is an adaptation of the 1891 play by Frank Wedekind about German students living in a repressed society who begin to explore their sexuality. Although the plotline is clichéd, the work does explore relevant sexual expressions and behaviours including masturbation, homosexuality, S&M, rape and teen pregnancy. With book and lyrics by Steven Sater and music by Ducan Sheik, Spring Awakening‘s score is a singer’s dream.
The musical opens with female student, Wendla, fretting over the fact that her mother will not tell her how babies are conceived. Male students in Wendla’s circle similarly experience growing pains, fantasies and frustrations with their budding sexuality. The intelligent and confident Melchior, meanwhile, has been learning about sexual education through books and shares this knowledge with his peers. Moritz, a nervous and shy student, does not want to hear such sexual information directly from Melchior and requests that the latter provide instructions in writing with diagrams.
Wendla and Melchior, who shared a childhood friendship, develop romantic feelings towards each other and explore their attraction. Predictably, tragedy happens when the ingredients include hormone-driven teens, rigid authority figures and an appalling lack of information and encouragement. But we’re not here so much for the intricacies of the story: it’s Spring Awakening‘s luscious score that overtakes the work.
Tiera Watts as Martha displays a lovely alto voice while communicating the frightening experience of being sexually assaulted. Watts’s duet with Victoria Scully’s Ilse, “The Dark I Know Well,” is chilling. Jacqueline Martin as Wendla and Scott Labonte as Melchior blend voices beautifully in “The Word of Your Body.” Martin convincingly embodies Wendla’s absolute naiveté about sexual matters.
“Totally Fucked” is a vigorously performed piece highlighted by Adam Sergison’s athletic choreography. The song is a much needed piece of fun in this otherwise dark play.
The closing song, “The Song of Purple Summer,” lifts the spirits with its tremendous melody and provides lovely harmonies featuring the whole cast.
The band, led by musical director, Robert Wilkinson, provided sympathetic accompaniment to the vocalists and was particularly poignant on “The Word of Your Body,” which showcased a tender violin played by Emma Vachon-Tweney and Wilkinson on keyboards. Matt Chenuz and Evan Benyacar as Hanschen and Ernst respectively demonstrated similarly ethereal vocals.
Erin Gerofsky’s prim costumes place the musical solidly in the 19th century and underscore the strict moral codes of the time. Heather Braaten’s direction is fluid with nary a dull moment. In fact, the production falls under 120 minutes with a 15 minute intermission.
The Lot’s Spring Awakening is a gem of a show with a gorgeous score performed by a talented cast. Don’t miss it!
Tickets for Spring Awakening at the Lower Ossington Theatre, 100A Ossington Avenue, are $49.99-$59.99 and may be purchased online or at the Box Office.