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‘Spring Awakening’ at the Fox Theatre

The company of the tour of "Spring Awakening, " at the Fox Theatre through March 14

The company of the tour of "Spring Awakening, " at the Fox Theatre through March 14

Theater review
“Spring Awakening”
Grade: B+
8 p.m. March 11 -12.  2 p.m. and 8 p.m.  Sat., March 13.  1 and 6:30 p.m. Sun., March 14. Through Sun., March 14. $19-$55. Presented by Broadway Across America-Atlanta, Fox Theatre, 1280 Peachtree St. N.E., Atlanta. 1-800-982-2787. www.ticketmaster.com.

By Wendell Brock

Early into “Spring Awakening,” heartthrob Melchior ponders the origin of shame and comes to the conclusion that it is “nothing but a product of education.”

Rock on, dude. With his revolutionary 1891 drama, German playwright Frank Wedekind questioned society’s failure to deal with the bottled-up energy and sexual confusion of youth, and more than a century later, Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik transformed the original text into a blistering, spiky-haired punk-rock Broadway musical about the chaos of young love.

Winner of a slew of Tony Awards, including the 2007 prize for best new musical, the anthem of adolescent angst arrived Tuesday at the Fox Theatre as raw, powerful and shocking as ever. While squeamish parents should be warned that the show is a frank, skin-revealing look at homosexuality, suicide, abortion and maybe a little drug use, it must also be noted that “Spring Awakening” is a tastefully dressed, highly literary tale that echoes Shakespeare and the Greek and Latin classics that are drilled into the heads of the German teenagers.

Beginning with Wendla’s solo, “Mama Who Bore Me,” sung by the lovely Christine Altomare, standing on a chair and pretending to look in a mirror, the story starts off quietly — and opening night seemed especially tepid, probably because Melchior was portrayed by understudy Matt Shingledecker, who is filling in all week for the vacationing Jake Epstein. But the minute Moritz (played here by the excellent Taylor Trensch) stamps his boot on the floor  and Bill T. Jones’ frenetic, punk-manifesto-style choreography steps into high gear, the show finds its groove.

The tragic romance of Wendla and Melchior may be the bruised heart of the play, but it’s really Moritz’s tale. He’s the Hamlet to Wendla’s Ophelia and Melchior’s Horatio, an image that hits home when mourners toss flowers into the young suicide’s grave. Andy Mientus plays Hanschen as a vampire, all naughty in his nightshirt, lusting after his paramour Ernst (Ben Fankhauser) and slowly moving in for the kill. (Hanschen knows all about Achilles and Patroclus.) As Ilse, Steffi D is another standout, her Louise Brooks’-style bob lending her the air of a German cabaret chanteuse.

Angela Reed plays all the adult women, and John Wojda digs into all the adult male roles with brio.

Set designer Christine Jones has created a splendid 19th-century classroom, and audience volunteers who help can sit in bleachers on each side of the room, accompanied by ensemble members. Susan Hilferty’s costumes help tell the story of repression and desire. The guys’ knickers and jackets look fresh off the runway, and the girls’ diaphanous nightshirts are just as sexy.

“Spring Awakening,” as the title suggests, ends on a note of triumph and rebirth. After the darkness and despair, “The Song of Purple Summer” brings the promise of fresh, dewy beginnings.

3 comments Add your comment

Geno

March 11th, 2010
5:30 pm

Justin Scott Brown was truly awesome playing Georg. His Touch Me Solo was awesome…He will play Melchior for all performances Friday and Saturday…it should be a special treat…His acting and vocal skills will be worth a second trip to the Fox!!!

inky

March 11th, 2010
7:07 pm

Justin Scott Brown will be performing the role of Melchior Saturday matinee and Saturday evening, and Sunday matinee and Sunday evening.

Diane

May 7th, 2010
3:42 pm

This was the most awful play I have ever seen. I would never recommend any one to go to this. I am writing the reviewer’s name down so I will know that I may not like the plays he reviews at all even if he gives them a B Plus. I went with my friend who also likes to go to plays and to be honest we left at the first intermission because it was so awful. With all of the Tony awards I was expecting a wonderful play. There is usually something at a live performance to like but honestly there was no redeeming factor in the play- not the story, music, dancing if you could call the stomping around dancing, sets, I could go on but why waste it on something useless. Never waste your time and money on this play.