Based on a 1891 play by Frank Wedekind, Spring Awakening is now a riveting rock musical, although still set in Germany. This musical production comes from the book and lyrics of Steven Sater, along with music by Duncan Sheik. The play explores the lives of teenagers as they face the challenges of adolescence and developing sexuality, along with the consequences of a lack of adult eduation for the children. Sater and Sheik turn it into a dark, witty coming-of-age musical that received major accolades, including eight Tony’s, when it originally played on Broadway between 2006 and 2009. It is a musical that is widely regarded as a triumph, and this production is no exception.
The Almeida Theatre is a venue that prides itself on working with young actors, and with Spring Awakening they have done just that. It’s a play that showcases the tremendous talent of the cast, along with innovative and imaginative staging, sublime choreography, and beautiful musical arrangements.
The play begins with staging that appears to be little more than a set of black stairs with glass screens along the top, but it becomes so much more as the show progresses. The cast draw on those stairs and the surrounding walls with chalk, while interacting with screens across the back. Director Rupert Goold and choreographer Lynne Page successfully use the space creatively and extensively, encouraging movement which subsequently demonstrates the casts impressive athleticism. This staging also works tremendously in creating level, interesting movements, and interactions with and between the performers.
What, in my opinion, is the key contributor to the show’s success is in those performers. Made up of mainly young actors, the cast perfectly encapsulated the play’s tone, fitting it all together marvellously as an ensemble. There are some stand-out names that deserve additional recognition: Amara Okereke, whose Wendla is perfectly naïve yet curious with great character development; Stuart Thompson’s Moritz captures his character’s anxious nature; Carly-Sophia Davies, as Ilse, not only has an impeccable voice, but she used it to touch the audience, and finally Laurie Kynaston as Melchior, a character who drives on the show impeccably.
I’d recommend this show to anyone searching for a beautiful, all-round and wonderfully presented musical that equally prioritises its acting, singing and dance. It’s funny, heart-warming, emotional and it really did leave me speechless. I already intend to see this again.
Book and Lyrics by: Steven Sater
Music by: Duncan Sheik
Original Play by: Frank Wedekind
Directed by: Rupert Goold
Produced by: Almeida Theatre
Choreography by: Lynne Page
Musical Direction by: Jo Cichonska
Set Design by: Miriam Buether
Costume Design by: Nicky Gillibrand
Spring Awakening plays at Almeida Theatre until 22 January 2022. Further information and booking via the below link.