Eric Engel and Catherine Stornetta have made the big hit Broadway, Tony winning, taboo breaking musical, SPRING AWAKENING, into an intimate, heart breaking, stage shaking coming of age declaration—which will make you weep and hope and marvel (none of which I did at other productions). At tiny Gloucester Stage (through July 14th) it’s all happening up close, very close—which means no microphones—so you can hear every note of Duncan Sheik’s gorgeous music and the young cast sings so beautifully and artfully that you make out every line of Steven Sater’s unforgettable, searing, often shocking lyrics.
This is, after all, a tale of sexual repression and the triumph (and tragedy) of youthful rebellion in the face of antediluvian social mores. What’s surprising is that the musical is based on an 1891 play by Frank Wedekind. The music, however, is decidedly contemporary, as is Engel’s explicit, contemporary staging.
Jodi Leigh Allen’s pounding, angry, righteous choreography sets the tone from the get-go: These teenagers acutely feel the injustice and pain involved in “The Bitch of Living.” Paul Farwell and Amelia Broome masterfully portray all the oblivious (and a few intentionally cruel) adults in their lives, with Broome delivering a hilarious, licentious turn as an “over the top” piano teacher.
Phil Tayler and Melody Madarasz give astonishing performances as the innocent, anguished lovers and Ross Mumford, as their tortured friend, will make you sit up and take notice. He makes the role his own by having Moritz wear his fragility in his hands and in his back, almost collapsing inward at the end of a lyric. His suffering is palpable (as is Farwell’s when Moritz’s father finally realizes what he’s done).
Every character is exquisitely drawn in this remarkable production at Gloucester Stage. Don’t miss it.