Friday, April 3, 2009

Spring Awakening - Novello Theatre

If there was ever any hope that this project would be a relatively objective one, that hope is officially abandoned here and now.

That having been said, it is only appropriate that the first post proper is in regards to Spring Awakening, a show that, at this point, I have no ability to disassociate from emotional self. To get the embarrassing part out of the way from the start, let it be known that tonight marked my 22nd return to 1891 Germany. ("Hi, my name is Emily and I'm a theatriholic...") I was seated onstage in the second row downstage right. For anybody who is unfamiliar with this show in performance, it should be said that sitting onstage is not ideal for a first-timer as everybody who has the privilege of seeing this amazing piece needs to really see it: the lighting design could justify the price of any ticket on its own and with the power of the full band onstage the lyrics are often drowned out by the orchestrations (which is not a problem if you happen to know all of the lyrics anyhow...) On the other side of the coin, however, if you have already been and are keen on returning, sitting onstage is a unique and intimate experience. The actors form a relationship with the onstage audience members that goes far beyond the interaction that took place (or didn't) in the States.

This is a good place to segue into what makes the UK production of this show very different from the original New York production (at both the Atlantic and the Eugene O'Neill theatres). Although the creative team is the same as it was for the original production, they were very clear on the fact that they didn't simply want to create a carbon copy of what they had already done. Obviously, it isn't radically different in the basic motions of the thing but it is the care that has very clearly been taken by the cast to present it as honestly as possible. Where the original cast was professional and efficient and talented, the British cast is full of raw energy and genuine passion. This is not to say that I don't adore the original cast because they will forever own a piece of my pathetic heart. The fact is simply that at the Novello Theatre in the West End (and before at the Lyric Hammersmith) the moment to moment work is mind blowing. There is something so much more human with this group of people. Aneurin Barnard (who I had the pleasure of meeting two weeks ago when he spoke to my class - so thoughtful and even more articulate) takes the role of Melchior and makes him so much more heartbreaking than I have ever known that character to be in performance. Iwan Rheon's Moritz is just as skittish as John Gallagher Jr.'s but more vulnerable. I cannot say enough about Charlotte Wakefield's Wendla: she is a real person. Her dialogue and action here come alive and have intention, feeling. She is decisive and innocent without being naive or foolish. Jamie Blackley and Harry McEntire as Hanschen and Ernst (respectively) form a relationship that completely avoids any sense of the cartoonish without losing any of the humor inherent in their hallmark scene towards the end of Act II. Evelyn Hoskins is the first Thea that I not only don't want to punch in the face but would also bow down to. Richard Cordery and Sian Thomas as the Adult Men and Adult Women become just as revered by curtain call as their young colleagues. I could go on...the bottom line is that this is a cast made up of real performers.

Because I am a complete nerd, it is necessary for me to also mention some technical differences that I am also one hundred percent sold on. The fight choreography here is far more intense, significantly more violent, and carried out infinitely more convincingly. It is such a pleasure to watch the reformatory scene and witness a brawl that doesn't make me think of a Punch and Judy vignette. A solo for Melchior has been added to "Whispering" (a reprise of "Touch Me") that really pulls the whole sequence together and makes this song really make sense in terms of both character and narrative. It should also be mentioned that during this song, Melchior is seated in the chair on the wall (as he was in the original production) but in this production the chair is built into a track in the wall and he moves from one side of the stage to the other over the band over the course of the song. It is very slow and the visual of it is very beautiful and completely appropriate in context. Melchior has much more freedom in the way he moves - Barnard is not a complacent still life. His rendition of "Totally Fucked" could not possibly be more charged and this is where his vocal ability really shines. Lines have been added and certain lyrics have been changed to cater to the fact that the English don't know what "looks so nasty in those khakis" means. There are some things that are better off lost in translation...I am not mourning the loss of that one. Fanny Gabor is Clara Gabor. Fanny is a vagina euphemism. Go figure.

I could go on, being even more vague and fan girl-esque than I already have been but will spare you. If you find yourself in London then go see this show. Now.

More intelligent musings next time. I promise.


  1. This is amazing. I'm so happy you're blogging.. haha

  2. i read the first sentence and one more somewhere in the middle before i was like, uh uh, i'm not doing this.

  3. that last one was from me, carey, apparently najva was the last one to log into google from my computer

  4. jesus. The comments I do leave aren't from me and the ones I don't are.

    oh world.