Spring Has Sprung!

So it looks like my column might come back to OUT TV, we shall see. In the meantime I continue writing for The Charlesbois Post and now occasionally for GayVancouver.net and Xtra.

Here is my take on Spring Awakening and at the end is my diversity tally for January.

 

 

Spring has sprung!
Studio 58 presents Spring Awakening

When Spring Awakening opened on December 10th 2006 the New York Times declared, “Broadway may never be the same.” Steven Sater (book and lyrics) and Duncan Sheik (music) adapted the 1891 controversial German play by Frank Wedekind into a unique rock musical.

 

As with the play – the musical deals with teenagers in a repressive and religious provincial town in 19th century Germany.  The adults around them won’t guide them or answer questions about sex and sexuality and abortion, homosexuality, S&M, incest and suicide abounds. Only in the musical we jump from 19th century to 21st century whenever the music starts. They pull out handheld mikes not to project their voices but to indicate we have time jumped, showing their confusion is also felt by youth today.

 

Unlike some recent musicals where lyrics are stage directions, here we have lines like “O, I’m gonna be wounded O, I’m gonna be your wound O, I’m gonna bruise you O, you’re gonna be my bruise” in a song about sexual awakening, it captures the bodily violation, scariness and the longing for first sexual contact. Way more interesting than “I walk down the street to buy a latte when I noticed this girl”.

 

This show won 8 Tony Awards including including best musical and then the London production won 4 Olivier Awards including best musical and the then the soundtrack won a Grammy.

 

The Vancouver Playhouse scored the local rights but when a decades old financial shell game with the city finally shut down the company, we were out of luck. The only other big company was The Arts Club but they had their season planned for the year. It looked like Vancouver was not going to experience this show.

 

Studio 58 to the rescue! The professional theatre-training program at Langara College is one of the best in Canada and given their reputation they were able to secure to rights for their students.

 

The dynamic training and balls to the wall execution helps make this show rock, since the students are close to the age of the youth characters they connect to the lust and confusion and anger.
Spring Awakening 2

It is important to remember they are in an acting school with singing training. These are not Broadway stars – yet. They attack the material with vim and verve and there are plenty of standout moments under David Hudgins direction.

 

Melchior (noble Riun Garner) squeezing himself into the corner of the hayloft filled with shame and rage trying to block out Wendla (winsome Lauren Jackson); Martha (haunted Erica Hoeksema) and Ilse (deadened Stephanie Izsak) singing separately but together about sexual abuse both have faced in The Dark I Know Well – heartbreaking.

 

The cocky arrogance of the gay Hanschen (Dominic Duchesne) and the insane Fraulein Knuppeldick (Merran McMahon) were welcome laughs amongst all the angst.

Spring Awakening

 

Masae Day plays Frau Gabor and she also plays the violin, so she steps in and out of the band. When one of the youth who she denied help takes his own life she leaves the band and plays violin at his funeral it’s a very touching scene.

 

Some of the students play a couple of smaller parts and even though he is too young Arthur MacKinnon distinguishes himself as Herr Stiefel and Father Kaulbach to fully realized characters.

 

The choreography by Shelley Stewart Hunt especially with the set pieces (by Shizuka Kai) blocking and yielding the youth from one another was sensuous fun. Big group numbers such a Totally Fucked and The Bitch of Living are fueled with big voices and fiery passion.

 

The band under musical direction of Andy Toth is stellar, simply stellar.
Spring Awakening 3

The show is not perfect – there are some notes that make you winch a little and one song (Left Behind) doesn’t even come close to the Broadway soundtrack but when you have a moment like Alex Strong playing Ernst singing out in a beautiful tenor “Touch Me, just like that” that erases any doubts, we are lucky this show is here.

 

Thank you Studio 58 for taking on the trouble and undoubtedly the expense of finally bringing the show to Vancouver and thank you upper term students of the acting program for bringing such power and passion to the stage.

 

Until February 24th

 

A video from the rehearsal !

 

David C. Jones

 

 

 

Diversity Casting Tally Sheet 2013 – January update
Art holds a mirror up to our world, and in our Canadian society – in most urban centre the “visible minority” is at about 52% while most theatre (also found in most urban centers) is still all Caucasian. So here is a running total that will be updated with each show I see this year.

I saw 14 shows in January (Thank you Push Festival) 5 were one person shows. One featured an all Asian and South Asian cast (7 total) and one featured its diverse cast in film clips.

I am not meaning to say anyone one company or director is responsible but we need to consider as a community who are shows are connecting with and how we portray the world we purport to be holding a mirror up to.

 

 

# of Plays            Total Actors                         # Diverse            Plays with Diverse Casting
14                           74                                            17                        4

 

 

Carried Forward into February

 

# of Plays            Total Actors                         # Diverse            Plays with Diverse Casting
16                          95                                               20                        6

 

 

Leave a Reply