“Spring Awakening” Preview

by Roxanna Pell, Assistant Arts Editor

If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, or at all sexually repressed lately, you have more in common with late-nineteenth-century German students than might be immediately apparent. For a clarification of the former statement, come to Memorial Chapel this Friday, or Saturday at 7:30 p.m. to see the rock musical “Spring Awakening,” based on Frank Wedekind’s play and directed by Lily Martin ’14.

“Spring Awakening” interweaves the stories of hormonal teenagers struggling to understand their bodies and themselves as they move through a strict school system in a society run by rules and reputations. The contemporary music through which these stories are told offsets the play’s depressing subject matter in such a way that the show’s take-away feeling is not one of gravity but of empowerment.

A solid cast of talented vocalists carries Martin’s production. From sophomore Tess Jonas’ opening number to freshman Blaise Bayno-Krebs’ chilling rendition of “Blue Wind,” these performers don’t miss a beat. If for no other reason, you should see “Spring Awakening” to hear the ensemble sing together. Highlights include an expertly crescendoed “Totally Fucked” and consistently impressive solos from members of the ensemble. Between leads and supporting actors, this cast truly doesn’t have a weak link.

“It’s all about the music,” said Martin, whose musical expertise is evident in her directing and casting choices.

That said, certain performers stand out for the quality of their acting as well as their voices. Paul McCallion ’15 handles his portrayal of troubled schoolboy Moritz Stiefel with such sincerity that the audience will be right there with him throughout his performance. Sophomore Gabe Gordon’s overconfident, sensual Hänschen adds some much-needed comedic relief to the story. Both actors’ commitment to different but equally emotive characters prevents this production from descending into the melodrama of which a more amateur rendition might be guilty.

Although many an eager visionary Second Stage director is denied use of the ’92 Theater as a casualty of the sheer number of plays produced each semester, Martin’s choice of Memorial Chapel as an unconventional alt-space is a bold one.

“It’s such an official space,” said Martin. “And the lights and sound here are really hard to deal with.”

Despite whatever trials and tribulations the “Spring Awakening” team may have faced, no such hardship comes across in junior Kayla Stoler’s artistic direction. The non-traditional stage is a perfect choice for the minimalist set “Spring Awakening” demands, while a symbolic painting of a tree serves as a beautiful backdrop for the performers.

Between the exhilarating musical numbers and heart-wrenching drama, you may be distracted by the unsettling realization that Wesleyan students favor a remarkably similar style of dress to their nineteenth-century German counterparts. With all due respect to your swag, I can’t deny the extent to which these particular youths pulled off “looking so nasty in those khakis” better than today’s college students do.

For sexy performances, beautiful music, and some very flattering pairs of pants, come see “Spring Awakening” this weekend. Your fashion sense will thank you.