Sunday, 30 January 2011

Spring Awakening **1/2

Spring Awakening
Book and lyrics by Steven Sater, music by Duncan Sheik, based on the play by Franz Wedekind, by The Young Australian Broadway Chorus (YABC)
Where and When: National Theatre, St. Kilda, until Feb 5, 2011
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: **1/2

Staver and Sheik’s musical, Spring Awakening, based on Frank Wedekind’s controversial 1891 play, won multiple Tony Awards. It is an adventurous and vivacious idea that overlays a 19th century story about teenagers in a rural town in Germany with 21st century “Indie rock” songs.

This production, directed by David Coates, casts actual 17 year olds. The Broadway production casts youthful but older performers with stronger technique. The authenticity of casting young actors unfortunately reduces the level of singing and acting skill and their understanding of the complex issues.

It certainly appeals to young audiences with its theme of sexual awakening in oppressive times and its popular, Indie music and edgy lyrics. It may shock some audiences with its sexually explicit scenes and stories of suicide, parental abuse, teen pregnancy and abortion.

The teenage voices carry the songs tunefully, but lack the requisite power, control and, obviously, maturity. Aleksa Kurbalija plays the precocious Melchior, Shannen Chin-Quan is the naïve Wendla, his lover while Liam Maguire is the hapless Moritz.

Coates employs the original, abstract, gestural movement and thumping choreography from the Broadway production but it feels a little awkward here. The balance between the Amish-looking children and the gutsy 21st century dance and song is uncomfortable, but the kids give it their best shot and the audience is happy.

By Kate Herbert

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