For a musical about sex, suicide, abuse, and abortion, the Musical Theatre Society’s production of Spring Awakening sure does make for an enjoyable evening. Led by director Angus Wyatt, the show’s cast and crew have taken Jane Holloway Hall by storm, capitalising on what could easily be a dreary and difficult space. The story follows the lives of a group of teenagers as they go through puberty, trying to come to terms with themselves and their place in an oppressive society.
The casting is excellent, each performer perfectly suited to his or her role, and the acting equally so. Ross Virgo, who plays Melchior with solid vocals and equally impressive acting, is proving to be someone to watch in upcoming productions. Opposite him, Zadie Ward plays a beautifully (and tragically) innocent Wendla. Karl Mercer’s nervous Moritz was nothing short of perfection and his intensity completely captivated everyone in attendance.
Catherine Tennant’s debut performance as Martha was heart-wrenching. In one particularly chilling sequence, her soulful voice took over the entire audience. Jamie Moore – an MTS newcomer without whom, future productions would be sorely lacking – sang with a voice that redefines the word “powerful” while proving himself an excellent comic actor at the same time. The versatility shown by both Joshua Ward and Ashleigh Togher, each playing a handful of characters ranging from a severe father to an attractive piano teacher, sometimes without even a prop to distinguish between them, was utterly laudable; in this production alone, they have proven themselves performers well worth their salt.
Of course, a musical just simply could not happen without a band, and Joe Robinson, musical director, led six other talented (and tireless) musicians successfully through a varied score. Amy Higgins’ choreography (particularly in “The Dark I Know Well” and “Touch Me”) was fluid and heightened the emotional effect of the music, despite having such limited space in which to do it.
On the downside however, the costume could have done with some minor improvements. While the boys’ costumes were all more or less uniform, the girls’ were not. Additionally the actors’ speech spoken downstage was at times lost for audience members sitting to the sides due to the thrust stage. I do appreciate though that the choice of staging was probably the only feasible way to stage this production, given the challenges presented by a space like Jane Holloway Hall. These are minor gripes rather than glaring problems, though, and did not hinder or cheapen the performance in any significant way.
On such a limited budget and such a difficult space, it really is astounding what this production has been able to accomplish; an absolute treat to watch.