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SCT’s ‘Spring Awakening’ enlightens, entertains

SCT’s ‘Spring Awakening’ enlightens, entertains
By Tony Wade From page B2, Daily Republic | March 25, 2016

ROCKVILLE — One of the things I love about live theater is how it can achieve so many different things. It can educate, entertain, be an avenue for escape from everyday life and serve as a catalyst for conversation.

Great theater can often combine those things.

Solano College Theater’s latest production, “Spring Awakening,” is one of those works that manages to be enlightening, disturbing and entertaining all at once.

I have seen companies put on shows that use strobes or smoke or loud noises to let patrons know beforehand they will be utilized. I liked that Solano College Theater let it be known that the current show contains sexual content and explicit language. I have seen local shows that were great, but neglected to do so and when children of an inappropriate age were present it was, at the very least, awkward.

I usually talk around specific plot points in a review, but that would be difficult to do with this show. So if you are planning to see this production (and you should) let this serve as your spoiler alert. You can just stop reading here and skip down to the bottom where I give the show three and a half stars out of four.

“Spring Awakening” was originally written as a play by German dramatist Frank Wedekind in 1890 or 1891. It explores the sexual oppression of the late 19th century and how ignorance of the basic facts of life such as the physical and psychological changes that come with puberty and knowledge about the specifics of reproduction lead to erotic fantasies and sometimes serious problems.

Needless to say, the themes of the play caused it to be banned as pornographic when it was first staged in 1906.

The musical version of “Spring Awakening” was conceived 100 years after Wedekind’s original idea and infused with alternative rock music by Duncan Sheik and lyrics by Steven Sater. The Broadway show debuted in 2006 and won eight Tony Awards including Best Musical and the original cast album won a Grammy.

Solano College Theater’s production was outstanding, but I expected no less. A cursory glance at the first page of the program had so many names of people who I, like a Pavlov dog, now automatically associate with quality theater, including choreographer Staci Arriaga, technical director Darsen Long and set designer Darcia Tipton.

But honestly, they had me at director: Christine Mani.

The cast members were superb. Standouts included Kirstin Pieschke as Wendla Bergmann, who is naive about the ways of the world and gets no help from her mother. Pieschke set the tone for the afternoon with her great version of the lead-off tune, “Mama Who Bore Me.”

Sage Georgevitch-Castellanos was perfect as Melchior Gabor and he projected the charisma and self-confidence of a young man sure of his beliefs even though they are at odds with those who have power over him. He shone on songs like “All That’s Known” and the duet with Pieschke, “The Word of Your Body.”

I liked Annika Sund in last year’s production “Dead Man’s Cell Phone,” and I absolutely loved her in the current show. She played three different Fraus and two Frauleins. Sund has a real presence whenever she graces the stage and was at turns frumpy, sexy, funny or stern – depending on the character and/or situation.

Travis Reaves did a great job as Moritz Stiefel, the neurotic friend of Melchior, and he, along with Caitlin Waite (another standout from “Dead Man’s Cell Phone”) beautifully delivered the tortured “Don’t Do Sadness/Blue Wind.”

I am pretty sure I have never talked about characters wearing a mic in a review before, but must for this production. I thought it was done so artfully throughout the show. Mics would be pulled out of a pocket or dragged onto the stage as a prop with a mic stand and in the song “My Junk,” the cast members doled them out in a way that wedded technological necessity, choreography and music in one of the coolest ways I have ever experienced.

I hadn’t read my program so I had no idea the music was being performed live, which I think speaks to the musicianship of the rockin’ band (Les O’Connor on guitar, Mark Middleton and Tony Gotelli on keyboards and A.J. Garcia on percussion) who were unseen, but definitely heard.

I loved the music in the show and bought the original Broadway cast recording after seeing Solano College Theater’s version. One of my favorite tunes is one whose title I can’t fully print here: “Totally (effed)”

“Spring Awakening” covers issues that include suicide, coming of age, puberty, child abuse, abortion and homosexuality. It was like a whole season’s worth of the old “ABC Afterschool Specials” in one show.

Kudos to Solano College Theater for tackling a production with such deep and controversial themes and for pulling it off with style.

Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at
‘Spring Awakening’

7:30 p.m. Friday, April 7-9
2 p.m. April 10
Solano Community College, Studio G Theatre, 4000 Suisun Valley Road, Rockville
three and a half stars out of four