Manchester University
Oak Leaves

April 20, 2018

Critic's Corner: A Review of 'Spring Awakening'

Evan Harris 

“Spring Awakening” was a must-see for fans of plays with teenage drama, or just musicals in general. If you hate reviews and spoilers, however, you might want to turn the page immediately.

Composed by German playwright Frank Wedekind in 1891, “Spring Awakening” was reimagined as a rock musical in 2006 by Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik. As presented by MU’s talented cast, “Spring Awakening” was a dramatic comedy that had its audience full of laughter one minute and tearing up the next.

Director Kira Lace Hawkins and assistant director Hannah Wales took the audience on an emotional roller coaster throughout the two-hour musical. With its sensitive subject matter such as homosexuality, abortions, open conversations about sex, religion, teen pregnancy, sexual abuse and how these issues are still relevant today, the musical did not shy away from what could be difficult dialogues; rather, it presented them as crucial.

I attended opening night on April 13, and I was confused at first by the fact that the play was performed backstage at Cordier Auditorium. Once backstage, I noted that the scenery (the stage) was nicely set up, and that the different colored lights and music, directed by Dr. Debra Lynn, added more of an atmospheric effect. The energy in the crowd before the show was very positive; everyone seemed excited to see what will unfold (not to mention, it was a full house). The energy from all the cast members and musicians was exuberant; it almost made you feel as if you were right in the middle of the action (and the late 19th century, too).

The singing from the cast was phenomenal, but Clayton Marcum (Melchior) and Addie Neher (Wendla) were the stars of the night, with their bold “romantic” scene atop a platform on center stage. Several of the older audience members covered their faces, seemingly in shock and surprise, as the scene played out.

I also cannot forget Moritz Stiefel, played by Jake Svay, whose already dysfunctional life takes a turn for the worst as he spirals down the road of misery and unfortunately commits suicide. Finally, no one can forget the jaw-dropping scene where Hanschen (Anthony Vega) shared a passionate moment with Ernst (Quinn L’Heureux) on a quiet evening, leading to a kiss … or a few.

Despite its innocent title, “Spring Awakening” dealt with serious, sometimes socially progressive, sometimes troubling scenarios. It treated each issue with care, and the performers dazzled the audience with their acting and musical skills.