Thursday, May 22, 2014
Artists' Collective Theatre's Production of "Spring Awakening"
Artists' Collective Theatre
Calgary Alberta Canada
The Thursday Afternoon Theatre Review:
Artists’ Collective Theatre
The premiere of a multi award-winning Broadway musical is running here now in Calgary with Artists’ Collective Theatre’s staging of “Spring Awakening”.
Tackling themes of young romance, budding sexuality and self-awareness (plus much more adult-related material - just sayin’), “Awakening” veers back and forth with sweetness and saltiness in the themes, incorporating background stories as relevant today as they were back in the original play that this 2006 update was based on…written in 1891!
Described in the theatre company’s press release as “haunting and provocative”, the play deals with sexual self-discovery, the interaction between teens, and morals or conventions that as I mentioned earlier, linger from the late 19th Century setting through to today. There’s damage control and peer pressure, there’s the blame game, and there are moral or religious high grounds that complicate each of these 3 lives. All these elements fuel the storyline through the era the play is set in, along with the juxtaposition of a modern update in a Grammy-Award winning soundtrack.
There’s also: reluctant somewhat non-consensual sex, masturbation, teenage pregnancy, erotic dreams, physical and sexual abuse, coming out, abortion, nudity and suicide - so it’s less ABC’s “Modern Family” coming-of-age than it is maybe Showtime’s “Shameless” sort of moral compass…
Utilizing a cast of newer and veteran local actors, the main story of awakening centres around three young students - Wendla Bergmann, Moritz Stiefel, and Melchior Gabor. There’s awakenings a’plenty for the other characters as well, truth be told, but these three are the primary focus of both coming of age, and coming to terms with their actions.
Director Amanda Liz Cutting has prepared three principal actors to do their jobs in portraying the nuances of their characters. Stefanie Lis as the naive but anxious-to-learn Wendla, and Brent Middleton as the insecure Moritz. Eric Wigston is not short on the confidence and swagger required of Melchior. Wigston and Lis are best in the tender moments in the play, while Middleton’s voice rises to the more boisterous melodies his character anguishes with. All together, they and the others in the cast come together nicely in the ensemble pieces.
The Adult Male/Female actors (Tory Doctor as a handful of Herren, and Jacqueline Strilchuk as a variety of Frauleins, including Wendla’s mother) have their respective hands full with a rotating variety of accents and characters, which was a bit confusing early on, but overcome given time.
From a music standpoint, I’m always a fan of seeing the backing band onstage, and for my preview showing, they were sharp.
As this review is based on a preview screening, your experience may vary from mine when you see Artists’ Collective Theatre’s production of “Spring Awakening”. That said, as I understand some actors will be rotating characters throughout the run, so any given night may be a new experience for audiences.
“Spring Awakening” is indeed provocative, yet also familiar for what happens in the headlines right now - both for insecure young people wanting to fit in and the adults that bring their moral high grounds that sometimes prevent them from doing that.
Opening officially Friday night and running through to May 31st, check it out at The Pumphouse Theatre.
The Youtube version of my cast interview can be found here…