REVIEW: “Spring Awakening”

by Macey Levin          

  There is a theatrical experience awaiting you at The Egremont Barn in 17 Main Street in South Egremont, Massachusetts.  Not only are they presenting a dynamic production of Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik’s Spring Awakening, but the venue is not your usual theatre space.

The show, a Tony Award-winning best musical in 2006, is a soft-rock musical based on an 1891 play by Frank Wedekind.  The authors have wisely retained the original time and place – 19th century Germany – to lend universality to the plot.  The show centers on the adolescent discovery of sexual desire while confronted and confused by the social restrictions of the time.

In this small town the teen-agers attempt to define themselves through their every day lives in school, at home and in their social circles where sexual pressures and repressions are omni-present.  The story focuses on two heterosexual and one homosexual relationship, though all the young people are feeling surging emotions of sexual energy.  Their parents, teachers and other authority figures forcefully restrict and punish their natural curiosity leading to severe life complications.

The music is not the typical Broadway show tunes; rather, it is a driving force, yet much of the score is gentle and sensitive.  There are several numbers with ferocious sound and lyrics, capturing the vigor of the young.  The major performers Jackson Teeley (Melchior Gabor), Caroline Fairweather (Wendlka Bergmann), Ali Louis Bourzgui (Moritz Steifel), Caitlin Teeley (Ilse Neumann) have beautiful voices and have brought their acting prowess to the lyrics.

The cast is made up local high school and college students who have strong voices and stronger stage presence since this is a very intimate playing space and the actors’ concentration has to be strongly focused as they are only inches away from their audience.  This close proximity pulls the audience directly into the performance and generates profound emotional reactions regardless of age.  Indeed, there were more young people in attendance than the usual older theatregoer.  A good sign!

The venue is a converted barn, thus its name.  Located on the grounds of the Egremont Village Inn, it is usually host to solo or small combo groups on most weekends.  Spring Awakening is their first attempt at a full theatre production.  The space is patron-friendly in that it has a warm, home-like ambience.  Normally there is a restaurant menu available, but food service has been suspended for the run of the show; the bar is open.  The space is dominated by a stone fireplace which is prominent in the staging of the production.

Co-directed by Harrison Lang and Caitlin Teeley, and choreographed by Natalie Sala, the movement within the several scenes and the dance numbers is creative and fluid.  The directors have their actors imbue the dialogue with honesty and intelligence.   They have also paid attention to the dramatic arc of the piece.  To maintain a simplicity required of them by the size of the stage set pieces and props are minimal and what ever is utilized is inventive.

One caveat:  seating is limited.  Since the original run has sold out two additional performances, a Saturday matinee and a Sunday night, have been added. The run ends June 25. For tickets: 413-528-1570.

Spring Awakening; Book and Lyrics by Steven Sater;  Music by Duncan Sheik; Based on the play by Frank Wedekind; Directed by Harrison Lang and Caitlin Teeley; Choreography by Natalie Sala; Music direction by Michael Pacifico & Cindy Gutter; Orchestrations by Duncan Sheik; Vocal arrangements by AnnMarie Milazzo; String Arrangements by Simon Hale; Executive producers: Harrison Lang, Caitlin Teeley and Gigi Teeley; Cast: Jackson Teeley (Melchior Gabor) Caroline Fairweather (Wendla Bergmann) Ali Louis Bourzgui (Moritz Stiefel) Caitlin Teeley (Ilse Neumann) Joey LaBrasca (Hanschen Rilow) Diana Quetti (Martha Bessell) Connor McNinch (Ernst Robel) John Ververis (Georg Zirschnitz) Aiden Chalfonte (Otto Lammermeier) Brianna Nicola (Anna) Julia Murphy (Thea) Monk Schane-Lydon (Adult Man) Gigi Teeley (Adult woman); Lighting design: Izzy Filkins; Sound design: Tom Teeley; Running Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes; one  intermission; The Egremont Barn, 17 Main Street, South Egremont, MA; Opening 6/21/17; closing 6/25/17; Reviewed by Macey Levin at June 210 performance

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