This is a show about the phenomena no one wants to talk about.
Discussing abortion, child abuse and suicide, “Spring Awakening” has come to Berkshire Hall through the Western Connecticut State University (WestConn) Theatre Arts Department. And while homosexuality is not as unmentionable as it was in the 1890s Germany, when Frank Wedekind wrote “The Awakening of Spring” and saw it banned, the WestConn production of this 2006 musical will make you talk.
WestConn senior Anna Giordano vocally masters the character of Wendla, a teen who copulates on stage with a rebellious Melchoir, played by Vincent McCoy. Austin Carnes horrifically and giftedly unnerves the audience as Moritz, who commits suicide due to the strict expectations of a conformist society. Alexis Willoughby and Corinne Marshall are double casted as Marta, who sings about the horrors of sexual abuse by her father in “The Dark I Know Well”, ironic considering the strong Christian values the characters hold. She duets with Ilse, also double casted, played by Katie Rudnicki and Audrey Twitchell. Ilse also suffered abuse.
The music is written by singer-songwriter Duncan Sheik, whose 90s alternative background is evident in numbers like “Totally F*cked” and “The B*tch of Living”. But orchestral ballads such as “The Guilty Ones” and “Those You’ve Known” reveal Sheik’s Nick Drake influences. The two opposites collide gorgeously. This is especially relevant when Moritz sings “Don’t Do Sadness” against Ilse’s “Blue Wind”. The book and lyrics are written by Steven Sater, who also worked with Sheik on a 2001 album, entitled “Phantom Moon”.
Elizabeth Popiel designed the set. The chorus sits in high-rising pews, and intimidates the characters overhead with religious judgment. Costume designer Lisa Renee Jordan dresses the boys in strict boarding-school outfits. Musical Director Tom Cuffari and the pit orchestra are veiled by the set, but their endowment is not lost.
Concluding the show, “The Song of Purple Summer” presents the transformation into summer, stating, “all shall fade, the flowers of spring, the world and all the sorrow at the heart of everything,” offering an encouraging outlook on the future despite the poignant events that occurred. Perhaps these awakenings are not in vain?
Feb. 27 & 28 at 7 p.m.
March 1, 2, 8, 9, 15 & 16 at 8 p.m.
Matinee March 9, 10 & 16 at 2 p.m.
Tickets at wcsu.edu/tickets or (203) 837-TIXX
General Admission $25, Students and Seniors $15
WestConn students FREE with I.D.