Perhaps most well-known for launching the career of Glee star Lea Michele, Spring Awakening has a lot to answer for. Originally written in 1891 by German playwright Frank Wedekind the controversial play was first staged in 1906 in Berlin and was criticised for its risqué subject matter. Dealing with rape, suicide and abortion, Spring Awakening‘s dark themes were deemed “pornographic” by early audiences.
So how does a German period piece that intimately discusses abuse, death and teenage angst become a Broadway hit? Turn it into a “rock musical,” that’s how. Re-developed by Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik in the early naughties, Spring Awakening was well… woken from its sleepy existence and exploded onto the New York stage. After a lukewarm start and several re-writes Spring Awakening has been a critical and commercial success, and it appears every self-respecting theatre company is reviving a version of the German play.
Monash Uni Student Theatre and Monash University Academy of Performing Arts are the latest to lend their voices to the popular musical and they do so magnificently. Stellar vocal performances from the entire cast leave you wishing the songs would never end, Jem Nicholas as Wendela and James Cerche as Mortitz in particular are shining examples of the wealth of talent we have in Melbourne. Cerche was wonderful to watch as the nervous quivering schoolboy as repulsed by sex as he is obsessed by it.
While the themes were dark, the humour of the writing broke through the sometimes heavy drama and allowed the cast to express both their dramatic and comedic abilities. Sharp Choreography by Kristen Adriaan and Yvonne Virsik was a highlight of the evening, as the performers proved their prowess as triple threats of the industry.
Effective in bringing the audience into the story in such a compelling manner, you begin to feel that you are watching something you shouldn’t. The performers draw you into their world of teenage rebellion, sex, and despair until you feel more like a peeping tom than an audience member.
Driven by a rock music score, the lyrics of “The Bitch of Living” are as honest as they are entertaining, and the entire male ensemble were completely in control as they smashed their way through the powerful music with all the heartfelt angst only a teenager can feel.
Beautifully sung, brilliantly danced, my only criticism is the use of an Australian accent. Don’t get me wrong I love this country, but there is something incredibly jarring about the way we speak that has the ability to tear you from the story and back into the South Eastern suburbs of Clayton.
Monash University has once again cemented itself as a powerhouse of professional talent, and consistently takes to the stage with effortless grace and theatrical style. Spring Awakening is simply the latest in a very long list of achievements for the University which continues to give Melbourne the best and shiniest of new stars.
Monash University Student Theatre and the Monash University Academy of Performing Arts present
a new musical
Director Yvonne Virsik
Venue: Monash University, Clayton Campus
Dates: September 30 – October 8, 2011
Bookings: www.monash.edu/mapa | 03 9905 1111
Part of the 2011 Melbourne Fringe Festival