Monday, November 7, 2011

QUICK TAKE REVIEW Wide Awake for this SPRING By Beverly Creasey

The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company has a hit on their hands. They’re currently presenting a smart and highly amusing production of the 2007 Tony Award winning (Best Musical) SPRING AWAKENING (playing at the Arsenal Center thru Nov. 12th). The Broadway tour wasn’t nearly this funny—and come to think of it, the orchestra was so loud on the tour that you couldn’t hear the lyrics!

The Steven Sater/Duncan Sheik musical is based on an 1891 play by Frank Wedekind which shocked audiences for its depiction of the sexual awakening of 19th century European teenagers. Even in 2011, the musical is shocking by Broadway standards, with its blunt, punk lyrics and its sardonic, explicit, sensibilities. Believe it or not, my favorite song is the hilarious “Totally F***ed,” the latter word rhyming niftily with “destruct.” The musical is best when it cuts loose (and loses the conventional musical format) and its characters all join in the exuberant frenzy, even the adults, who are for the most part unhelpful or downright despicable to the struggling teenagers.

Director Joe DeMita has a fine young cast, especially in Alaina Fragoso and Jared Walsh as the young lovers and in Ben Sharton as their tortured compatriot…and on the grownup side, in Linda Goetz and James Fitzpatrick as all the misunderstanding adults. DeMita places a majestic tree (of knowledge, of forbidden fruit etc.) upstage with ropes to entwine it and entangle the adolescents, to fetter them with old world values, with shame, with doubt. The metaphor works, thanks to the chorus who manipulate the ropes and amplify the scenes with gestural movement and dance.

Music director Steven Bergman gets fine vocal work from the entire cast and best of all, he maintains a perfect balance of orchestra and singing so each and every lovely lyric can be heard. Bravo!