Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

February 24, 2010

Spring Awakening

The Bushnell, Hartford, CT
through February 28, 2010
by Bob Smith

Ah, youth! The enjoyment of "Spring Awakening" will depend in large part on how well the audience has recovered from its own adolescent angst. Based on a scandalous play written in 1891, this Tony Award winning show illustrates that teenagers have always felt oppressed by the adult world and even more terrified by the world in their own heads.

Bringing the story into the present age is the music by composer Duncan Sheik and lyricist Steven Sater. The numbers are at turns rebellious, whimsical and heart wrenching. Reflecting youthful passions, some of the song titles are not even repeatable in print. "The Dark I Know Well" details a horrific subject in a calm but devastating manner. Sarah Hunt and Steffi D delivered a powerful and poignant duet, lending each other the strength of their voices.

This is not theatre for the faint of heart, as these are hormonal teens after all. Even in their attempts to forge meaningful connections with one another, there is brutality and coarseness. The lighting and staging plays an integral role, illustrating the conflicting emotional states between desires and actions. Characters literally are climbing up the walls. The band that propels the emotional score sits on stage, lending a rock-concert quality to many of the numbers.

It is an ensemble piece, but it is well anchored by Jake Epstein and Christy Altomare as the "romantic" leads. From the opening number, one can very quickly start to feel like a voyeur, and it is their earnest portrayals that facilitate your investment in the drama. Parents may nod in recognition of their own experiences while simultaneously dreading the years to come.

"Spring Awakening" is a unique experience. Startling subject matter, atypical songs for a Broadway show, and engaging young performers make it worthwhile theatre for those who are not put off by the excessive emotional tendencies of youth.

Contains mature themes, sexual situations, nudity and strong language.