Austin Lauer & Lauren McCombs in Spring Awakening.


Spring Awakening

Book & Lyrics by Steven Sater
Based on the play by Frank Wedekind
Music by Duncan Sheik
Directed by John Leffert

Review by Annette Skaggs

Entire contents are copyright © 2014, Annette Skaggs.  All rights reserved.

There is a reason why this relatively newish Broadway musical has garnered so much attention, accolades and acclaim. Is it the music? Partially. Is it the set design? Could be. What about the theme? Right on the nose.

Spring Awakening is a straight shot look into the minds of teenage angst and lust. Set in a pastoral, 19th Century Germany, we are introduced to six boys and six girls, all approaching their changing selves and world around them with wide-eyed wonder. One of the things that I enjoy in this show is that when the children are singing, they sing in a more contemporary way. I think it is a rather unique device with which to reach a wider audience.

You should be a part of this wide audience!! While this show is rated R, restricted, for a reason, it is a passionately produced and performed public message. Again, do not bring a child to this show as it is full of sexual innuendo, some adult language and situations and yes, a smidge of nudity, very tastefully handled.

The boys: Melchior (Austin Lauer), Moritz (Kyle Braun), Georg (Mitch Donahue), Hanschen (Jordan Price), Ernst (Andrew Hughes) and Otto (Timothy Struck). The girls: Wendla (Lauren McCombs), Martha (Jessica Adamson), Thea (Peyton Evans), Ilse (Marina Hart) and Anna (Olivia Passafume).

We are thrust into the budding and awkward romance of the lead characters of Spring Awakening, wunderkind Melchior and naïve Wendla. I assure you, there is not a fairy tale ending to their story, as the haunting lyrics of the song “The Word of Your Body” allude to. Mr. Lauer and Ms. McCombs have a way of bringing their audience in as they perform together.

The show also tackles some of the dark secrets that hide behind closed doors: from Moritz’s troubles in school to Ilse and Martha’s sad family dynamic. Jessica Adamson’s “The Dark I Know Well”, Kyle Braun’s “Don’t Do Sadness”, and Marina Hart’s “Blue Wind” offer the audience the demons that these young people are faced with every day. All three tackle the passion of the lyrics and their meanings in a lovely and thought provoking way.

Of course the show isn’t all about sadness. There are some funny moments too. Watch for the other schoolboys and their interactions with one another, especially Hanschen and Ernst.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a couple of the standout voices I heard, as not all of the characters have big show-stopping solos, but instead are soloed within a song. The voices I heard were of Mr. Donahue (Georg) and Mr. Price (Hanschen). Watch and listen to these guys deliver a rock anthem/Broadway bound type sound.

Of course what would a musical that centers on teenagers be without an adult influence? Hats off to Julie McGuffey who played five female roles and Michael Drury playing nine. Both of them slipped in and out of character like pros. A special shout out to Mr. Drury for his Herr Stiefel character: when you see the show, you will understand why.

I loved the stunning costumes of Butch Sager and Theresa Bagan’s neon lighting. And the orchestra was enjoyable and engaging. I was impressed by the versatility that was found among the orchestra in that there were a few multi-instrumentalists. The hair and make-up by J. Michael’s Spa and Salon was a bit of fun too. Also, enjoyable was Zachary Boone’s high-energy choreography.

Mr. Leffert, thank you for having the courage to present Spring Awakening to Kentuckiana audiences. As you said in your Artistic Director’s notes and in your opening speech “This show has changed me and helped me heal. I wish the same experience for you”

Bravo Tutti!!


Spring Awakening

August 7- 17, 2014

CenterStage at JCC
Linker Auditorium
3600 Dutchmans Lane
Louisville, KY 40205