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Review: ‘Spring Awakening’ at Lake City Playhouse

July 28, 2012

By Sandra Hosking

COEUR D’ALENE, IDAHO—July 26, 2012—Lake City Playhouse launches its inaugural “Stage Left” summer production with a bang with Duncan Sheik and Steve Sater’s SPRING AWAKENING, based on a German play by Frank Wedekind. The musical holds both shocking and tender moments, as well as humor.

The show, set in the late 19th century, opens with Wendla, a sheltered fraulein played by Abby Anderson, looking at her reflection and singing “Mama Who Bore Me,” setting a soulful tone. This is not West Side Story’s “I Feel Pretty.” Anderson’s character is vulnerable with long, dark curly tresses and a sweet voice, but some of her words are muddled.

When the other young women join her in a reprise, their voices blend perfectly.

We meet Wendla’s lover Melchior, played by Jordan Taylor, at his school for boys where free thought and failure aren’t tolerated. He and his classmates adeptly display their angst in the explosive number “The Bitch of Living.”

This is where Siri Hafso’s aggressive choreography shines.

We also encounter Melchior’s friend Moritz, played by Ross Mumford. Moritz is a horrible student with an overbearing father. Mumford captures his character’s absolute fear of ineptitude very well, especially in “Don’t Do Sadness,” and we ache for him because we know what lies in store.

Emily Cleveland, who is known for portraying cute and quirky characters, goes deep in “The Dark I Know Well,” a song about the abuse her character Martha endures. The song becomes a duet between Martha and Ilse (Hafso), and the abrupt ending makes us hold our breath.

The teens are tightly controlled by the adults in their lives, all played by Janean Jorgensen and George Green, who also directs. Most of these portrayals are effective, especially Jorgensen’s German schoolmarm and Green’s father figures.

The first act presents one powerful moment after another. In one scene between the lovers Wendla and Melichor, the girl asks him to hit her with a switch just so she can “feel something.” But the instant where Melichor decides to go too far happens too fast.

Their coupling at the end of the act, which is slightly graphic, is handled artfully though.

Act two waxes more serious as we see what social restrictions do to these teens. While the title, SPRING AWAKENING, implies a promise of abundant blossoms, it becomes a tragedy. Wendla’s mother makes a decision for her that has terrible results, and that transition happens too quickly onstage.

The solid performances are accented by a creative set, costumes and even hair. Zack Baker provides the music direction with an orchestra led by Mike Saccomanno.

It all comes together in a reflective, almost spiritual, “The Song of Purple Summer.” We’re not sure what a purple summer is but one thing is clear: this cast is fully committed to this story.

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SPRING AWAKENING runs through Aug. 11 at Lake City Playhouse (www.lakecityplayhouse.org).

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Sandra Hosking, M.F.A., is a Spokane-area journalist and teacher. She is editor of InSight for Playwrights, a national publication, and Co-playwright-in-residence at Spokane Civic Theatre.

 

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One Comment
  1. So what is Purple Summer? Sooooo glad you asked (puts on “English Major” hat plus “gardener” hat)

    “Purple Summer” is a plant. We tend to think of “purple” as a spring color, but there are several purple flowering plants in summer. (I think the specific flower referenced is a type of phlox, but I digress). The show’s title uses the seasons as a metaphor for the life cycle, and I believe “Purple Summer” was chosen specifically to continue the metaphor – summer being adulthood (fall being middle age and winter being the frailty of advanced age).

    The imagery is of a mother singing to her child a song of the beauty of summer (adulthood). The child is growing up but not an adult yet. The Earth WILL be fertile with tall-standing corn, animals have sex and have their own babies (in imagery echoing Melchior’s journal). Even the dangerous side of summer has its beauty – summer storm lightening causes dangerous fires, but is incredibly beautiful to watch; crickets in large numbers destroy crops, but create their own soothing song of the night.

    Summer – and adulthood – WILL come. “I will sing” of the beauty of adulthood, and we on stage ask our audience to celebrate both the glory of the spring – take tender care of our society’s children – and guide them towards the beauty of adulthood, with full awareness of the beauty (and dangers) in the world around them.

    The song is directed at the parents, teachers, and other adults influential to children (which is pretty much all of us). As adults, we tend to forget what the pre-teen and teenage years are like. “You’ll hear and you’ll recall” is right, although it’s generally a distant memory, like a stone smoothed by water. I DO hope for more for my child, I hope that she will be able to get through the awkward phases of life without making destructive mistakes. I want to guide her, but I don’t want to lose her through ‘bossing” her (in her words). It’s the delicate balance that I believe the show advocates.

    The lyrics as used in current licensed productions of Spring Awakening:

    Listen to what’s in the heart of a child
    A song so big in one so small,
    Soon you will hear where beauty lies –
    You’ll hear and you’ll recall
    The sadness, the doubt, all the loss, the grief
    will belong to some play from the past
    As the child leads the way to a dream, a belief,
    a time of hope through the land.

    A Summer’s day, a mother sings
    A song of purple summer
    through the heart of everything
    And heaven waits, so close it seems,
    To show her child the wonders
    of a world beyond her dreams.

    The Earth will wave with corn,
    The days so wide, so warm,
    And mares will neigh with
    Stallions that they mate,
    Foals they’ve borne,
    And all shall know the wonder of Purple Summer.

    And so I wait, the Swallow brings
    a song of what’s to follow – the glory of the spring.
    The fences sway, the porches swing
    The clouds begin to thunder,
    Crickets wander, murmuring

    (Repeat chorus)

    And all shall know the wonder…
    I will sing the song of Purple Summer.

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