Since its premiere on Broadway in 2006, Spring Awakening has become a must-see phenomenon wherever it plays. WMU University Theatre’s interactive rendition of the show exceeded these expectations.
Spring Awakening was originally written as a play in 1891 by German playwright Frank Wedekeind. Almost immediately after its opening, the play was banned for its explicit themes and scenes. Over 100 years later, the original play was rewritten as the popular Tony Award winning musical it is today.
WMU’s version of Spring Awakening, directed by Jay Berkow, is performed in William’s Theatre, a cozy arena-style theater that allows cast members to be up close and personal with their audience. Duncan Sheik’s rock-operatic music had audience members clapping and dancing along as cast members took over the entire theater, literally and figuratively.
The closeness of the theater draws audience members into the intimate issues portrayed in the show. Audience members of all ages will be reminded of their own innocence and the loss of it through their exploration of sexuality as they watch characters experience issues such as loss of virginity, homosexuality, child abuse, abortion, competitive schooling, bullying and suicide.
Despite the negative themes expressed in the show, the most memorable scenes are those depicting the awkwardness that comes as adolescents discover sex and all of the added amenities. Cast members were not in the least bit shy as they acted out extremely private and provocative experiences such as teen suicide and masturbation.
Bello Pizzimenti and Alicia Humphrey, both senior Musical Theatre Performance majors, played leading roles of Melchior, an extremely intelligent teenage boy eager to experience the world without rules, and Wendla, an innocent teenage girl still under the impression that babies come from the stork. Pizzimenti played Rocky in The Rocky Horror Show last fall and Mark in Rent the previous spring. Wendla is Humphrey’s first major role, although she has performed as Dance Captain and a Swing member in Hairspray, The Rocky Horror Show and My One and Only.
Pizzimenti and Humphrey were both extremely vocally and theatrically talented, as was the choreography of all musical numbers. Costumes and make-up were historically accurate, with the exception of a couple of modern haircuts.
Other leading actors include Max Rasmussen as Moritz, Meghan Shanahan as Ilse, Zach Bezdziecki as Ernst and Shane Schmidt as Hanschen.
Students with any level of interest in theater will enjoy watching their classmates share their exhilarating energy. Patrons should be aware of explicit language and mild nudity. Parents should be wary of bringing children.
Spring Awakening opened Friday, Oct. 26 and will play through this weekend and the next in Williams Theatre with shows Nov. 1, 2 and 3 at 8 p.m., Nov. 2, 3 and 4 at 2 p.m. and Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. Ticket prices can be found on the University Theatre Box Office website.