Under the direction of Heather Braaten, accompanied by musical direction by Robert Wilkinson, the Lower Ossington Theatre’s current production of the eight-time Tony Award-winning musical Spring Awakening surely does not disappoint.
Based on Frank Wedekind’s groundbreaking and controversial play of the same name, Spring Awakening is a rock musical with music by Duncan Sheik and book and lyrics by Steven Sater. Set in nineteenth century Germany, the musical tells the story of a group of teenagers dealing with both the inner and outer turmoil of sexuality, self-discovery, and rebellion. The handsome and headstrong Melchior Gabor (Scott Labonte) and the naïve but curious, Wendla Bergmann (Jacqueline Martin) come together again after having not spoken to one another since they played as children. Melchior’s anxious friend Moritz (Andrew Soutter) feels intense pressure to live up to the expectations set by both his parents and teachers, while struggling to understand why images of female legs keep appearing in his dreams. Together, through their search for truth, the group becomes awakened to their own minds, bodies and souls.
The minimal set and prop pieces give way for the ensemble-driven production and contrasts heavily with the busy and colourful lighting by Mikael Kangas, adding a perfect touch of anarchy. Similarly, Erin Gerofsky’s costume design proves to produce authenticity with an edge.
The show achieves incredible success in the many moments where the entire ensemble – including pit singers and band – is present. Adam Sergison’s tight choreography mixed with the group’s incredible musical and vocal energy packs a powerful and emotional punch, most notably during “Touch Me”. The only downside was that sometimes the music did overpower the vocals.
Jacqueline Martin brought a beautiful youthfulness to Wendla, and shared some striking moments with Scott Labonte. Overall, the boys outshone the girls, with memorable performances by Evan Benyacar, who was terribly underused, Matt Chenuz, and Andrew Soutter.
However, there were some scenes that were memorable for the wrong reasons. There was no differentiation between the several adult characters played by two actors throughout the show and many instances where their scenes were "schmacted," making the characters seem insincere.
Through the vehicle of rock and roll, the musical criticizes nineteenth century Germany’s sexually repressive culture and conscious stifling of free thought, while celebrating the beauty of youth and revolt. Shedding hope and inspiration on the idea of life after loss, the LOT’s production of Spring Awakening is well worth the watch.
Spring Awakening is playing now through March 1 at the Lower Ossington Theatre (100A Ossington Avenue, Toronto). For more information call the Box Office at 416-915-6747 or visit www.lowerossingtontheatre.com/.