It’s a Bitch of a Living – A Spring Awakening Review

A couple of years ago, well before this blog existed, we had the pleasure of seeing Spring Awakening at the Canon Theatre and fell in love with the controversial story. So when we came across tickets for a local production of the play at the Lower Ossington Theatre (LOT), we jumped on it, anxious to relive the wild production and see Spring Awakening in the Fall! (Lame joke ©Veronica.)

We have never been to the LOT before and actually walked right past the entrance the first time around. There are no flashy signs and no big theatrics, an indication that the show itself would be a smaller, more personal production than our previous encounter, which we actually prefer.

Up on the second floor of the old building, the theatre itself was a very intimate atmosphere, so much so that you could hear the performers warming up in their dressing rooms through the wall in the two-stalled ladies bathroom. Our seats were in the third row from the stage, which also happened to be the third last row, giving you an idea of the limited seating space. We felt almost as if we were sitting right on the stage, which will make our next trip to the LOT at the end of October with front row seats to the Rocky Horror Picture Show even more interesting. But we digress.

Spring Awakening tells the story of a group of teenagers at a Catholic school in Germany coming of age and learning about their sexuality. The masterpiece itself was so daring for its time that it was banned from the stage and not performed in its complete form in English for nearly 100 years.

Rebellious Melchoir Gabor (Jonathan Logan), a self proclaimed atheist, paves the way to their inevitable self awakening by writing a detailed and graphic essay for classmate and close friend Moritz Steifel (Andrew Ball), who is tormented by sexually charged dreams and plagued with guilt and shame as a result. Melchoir blames religion for Moritz’s reactions and begins questioning the structures of the Catholic Church and everything he has been taught.

Naive Wendla Bergmann (Courtney Lamanna) is the perfect example of repressed adolescence, all her growing questions about reproduction and self awareness go ignored by her mother and every authority figure in her life. She’s left feeling confused and ashamed for her naturally awakening sexuality. After stumbling upon Melchoir one afternoon in the forest, the two strike up a flirtatious friendship which later fuses into a sexual relationship that Wendla doesn’t quite understand.

The three, along with their classmates, are left to struggle with their arousing sexuality, the pressures of schooling and the consequences of their actions. Their journey from youth to adulthood and struggle with morality and sexuality is a confusing, complicated mess of emotional exploration that is passionately expressed on stage with a fusion of sexual energy in among a flurry of rock and roll anthems.

The age appropriate cast seemed to all be recent graduates from various local theatre programs, a refreshing change from the weathered theatrical veterans we usually see. But despite being relatively new to the stage, a small stage with little room or set to work with, each performer carried the pressure of the performance like a professional.

Ball gave Moritz the emotional depth needed to convincingly portray the tormented character and being so close to the stage we could actually see his eyes glistening with pain. At first he seemed a little overzealous, but as his character developed, Ball’s enthusiasm was fitting as he was driven to a state of complete helplessness. And each solo rock performance made us think he would be the perfect candidate to form a rebellious Green Day-esque punk-rock band in his down time.

Logan, on the other hand, seemed to resemble a young Neil Patrick Harris in the way he carried his self confidence and coy smile. He just had that suaveness to him that makes it believable that he would be the go to guy. And Lamanna’s level of naivety was spot on for the young girl-like presence she encompassed. Her chemistry with Logan and their youthful flirtations were familiar and reminiscent of our own blossoming years.

As with every play we see, there is always one scene that steals the show for us. This time it was Hanz (Graham Parkhurst) and Ernst (Aaron Wolfe) expressing their secret – and not so secret – lust and sexual desire for each other in an outrageous reprise of The Word Of Your Body.

Parkhurts’ mischevious expressions and Wolfe’s hesitant but longing reactions created an electrifying cat and mouse chase and when they finally came together and gave in to their desires, the audience was in stitches and cheering on their union.

While some of the bigger more aggressive numbers like Totally Fucked had a lot of movement happening on the small stage and seemed a little congested, it’s always amazing to see how a cast of talented performers and a creative team behind the scenes can adapt such a big production and still pull off the same kind of professional and stimulating performance.

Spring Awakening
runs until October 8 at the Lower Ossington Theatre. Tickets are available online.

images from google images and the LOT website