REVIEW BY NATALIA VIVINO
Last Sunday, YA4Ever’s production of Spring Awakening completed its run to a full house at the Hillcrest Center for the Arts. Seats were hard to come by, and for good reason. The rock musical, directed and choreographed by Nick Berke and assistant directed by Francesca Barletta, was artfully put together and executed by a devoted cast of teens and young adults. Due to the suggestive nature of the show, an age restriction was enforced ensuring that no one under the age of seventeen could attend unless accompanied by an adult.
Created by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater, the story focuses on a group of teenagers in nineteenth century Germany who are faced with the challenge of discovering the inner workings of sexuality, in a repressive society. The characters present their own captivating (and often heartbreaking) stories to the audience, which adds to the plot’s poignant theme.
The show opened with “Mama Who Bore Me,” sung by Missy Michael Jamieson as Wendla. Jamieson, a student at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, plans on continuing her training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Her emotional performance as Wendla was equaled by Donovan Mendelovitz, a recent graduate of the Tisch School, as Melchior. Together, the two had a special chemistry that brought an extra spark to the stage.
Thanks to the skillful direction from Berke and Barletta, Jamieson and Mendelovitz, along with the rest of their cast mates, faced the more promiscuous scenes with taste and decorum. Mendelovitz especially impressed in such numbers as “All That’s Known” and “The Word of Your Body,” which he performed with Jamieson.
A major supporting character was Moritz, played by Graham Wetterhahn. Moritz is a bumbling schoolboy who tries to deal with the overwhelming pressure of his father’s high expectations.
In the second act, Wetterhahn gave a chilling performance in “Don’t Do Sadness/Blue Wind” with Jenisa de Castro as Ilse. Castro also joined Desiree Gillespie (Martha), in “The Dark I Know Well.”
As Act II began, all three characters faced pivotal changes, many of which revealed their complex inner struggles and past experiences. Other standouts in the cast included Michael Brown (who served double duty as dance captain) as Hanschen, Andrew Frank as Ernst, and A.J. Morales, displaying unquenchable energy, as Georg. The cohesiveness of the cast was evident from the first moments of the play, displaying the unity that is so important for any live theatrical production.
As the only adults in the show, Aileen-Marie Scott and Evan Smith portrayed a variety of characters, including the parents of Wendla, Melchior, and Moritz, schoolteachers, and other townspeople. Scott and Smith gave dedicated performances, and convincingly switched between characters, no easy feat.
Besides standout performances from the cast, the production was well thought out. Mark Reyes’ cleverly designed set fit the limitations of the performing space, providing just the right atmosphere, while a live band conducted by Brooke Wetterhahn remained behind a transparent screen on stage.
Spring Awakening proved to be a captivating production; a musical well executed and directed by individuals who truly cared about the story and the characters.