Spring Awakening Review


So, when I first got to New York, the first show I took my boyfriend to see was “Spring Awakening” and we loved it. Since then, I recently had the privilege of watching it twice in one week, with the current cast starring Hunter Parrish (who is famous from being on Weeds) and I finally feel I am able to give the show a solid review.

For those of whom do not know what it is about. Basically, it is about teenagers who are in a society (the original play was based in 1890n Germany) where parents are unable to face the fact that their children are growing up. They are unable to discuss sex with them, and as a result all of the children are forced to attempt to figure it out for themselves. This leads to a series of reactions from abortion, suicide, death, etc. However the central characters are Melchior Gabore, the golden boy of the local school, Wendla Bergman, a young girl who grew up with Melchior and has now blossomed, and Moritz, a young boy haunted by his sexual dreams who Melchior explains the facts of life too. As we see each of these kids, and their friends, experience and learn about sex the musical unfolds using a folk-infused rock score.

The Men

The Men

The two principle men are Melchior and Moritz. So far I’ve seen Melchior played by Kyle Riabko and Hunter Parrish both of whom are excellent singers. The main difference being that, while Kyle Riabko gave a nearly pitch perfect performance, his acting and interpretation of the role of Melchior simply fell flat. His constant posing, and overly poppish sound made Melchior seemed more like the class kiss ass rather than the class rebel.  As a result, since Melchior is the one who “awakens” most of the sex in the entire play, it changed how the entire performance read to the audience. Perhaps most noticeably was the scene that ends act one where you see Melchior and Wendla consummate their love. Kyle Riabko’s Melchior was perhaps more interested in how he would look having sex than what it was supposed to mean.

Thankfully, I have also seen Hunter Parrish give an excellent performance twice. I assume that this is what Melchior is supposed to be like, rebellious, sexy, confused, and for the most part completely earnest. Hunter’s dedication to the role, and beautiful interpretation leads you to fall in love with Melchior as he battles to experience love without guilt. I will grant that Hunter is not perfect vocally, but he is certainly close. He has a wonderfully resonant sound, and even manages to produce a passable falsetto. I am sure that if I saw him in the run 6 months from now he would certainly have had enough practice to truly be pitch perfect. I also am fine sacrificing a few sour notes, for 2 hours of good acting. It was nice to see that Hunter managed not to scream out “NO!” in a Darth Vader kind of way. A trap I am afraid Mr. Riabko was unable to avoid.

The next male role is Moritz. I have seen Moritz played by Gerard Canonico (who was in the ensemble of the original cast) and Blake Bashoff. Moritz is the character I think MOST people fall in love with. He has trouble with school, trouble with sex, trouble with life, and his parents are rather cruel. Both Mr. Canonico and Bashoff give completely wonderful performances of this role. I felt Blake Bashoff was able to vocally perfect the role which was originated by John Gallagher Junior, but for the most part did an imitation of the clips I’ve seen of the original cast production. I found absolutely nothing wrong with this, as Mr. Gallagher won a Tony for his performance, and felt that Bashoff was able to sing the role better than the original.

As for Gerard Canonico, I feel his acting of the role is better than either of this two predecessors. However, vocally he seems to change from night to night. I may have seen him on a slightly off night, where is voice faltered a few times, but I was moved to tears numerous times as he confronted his desires to be touched, do well in school, have friends, and ultimately end it all. I would have that that upon seeing him 2 times within a week I would be anesthetized to the tear jerker moments, but I think I cried more the second time than I did the first. I am certain Mr. Canonico will have a wonderful run as Moritz. He and Hunter Parrish make the show completely spell binding.

The rest of the men in the show do a wonderful job as well. Both Glenn Fleshler and Tony Carlin do an incredible job playing all of the adult men. I feel the Mr. Fleshler’s performance peaks when he plays Martha’s father and the local priest. Whereas I think Tony Carlin’s performance as the doctor and the school teacher were some of the best. Andrew Durand (Georg) has an incredible musical talent both as piano player and vocalist, and Gabriel Violett makes Otto more than just “The fat guy who yells ‘Bitch’ in ‘Bitch of a Living'”

The other two male cast members I feel deserve some special mention. They are Matt Doyle as Hanschen and Blake Daniel as Ernst. These two I have seen play these roles all three times I have seen the show live. They are incredibly gifted at playing two of the more difficult roles. The roles are not overly difficult because they are gay, but because they are forced to provide lightness and comedy in a show at it’s darkest moments. I originally did not overly like Blake Daniel’s interpretation of Ernst. I thought he was too tall, and his voice overly affected. I am not sure if my opinion has changed or if Mr. Daniel has overly improved the quality of his role, but I now commend him for giving a wonderful performance. Matt Doyle is not only lovely, and hilariously funny as he plays the narcissistic and protentious role of Hanschen, but he simply has the best voice in the cast right now. I wish the show explored these two characters more, because they are such a delight to behold by these two actors.

The Women

The Women

The main woman of Spring Awakening is Wendla. So far I have seen Alexandra Socha and Eryn Murman (who is an understudy) play the role. The competition was non-existent. Eryn Murman sang the role perfectly, and her acting was very good. Alexandra Socha fails to sing the role, but provides the absolute image of naive beauty. Needless to say, I think Eryn Murman did a much better job, and I hope to see her again. I have had to see Alexandra Socha play the role twice, and each time I have been puzzled by her performance vocally. I am not sure if it is the pressure of having to start the show alone or if the songs are just harder to learn but Alexandra Socha struggles through the first act. She does not seem to be able to support her sound in the opening number, and often falls flat. In addition, it is not entirely apparent that she understands all of the lines she says. Many of them have quizzical inflections and her diction often fails her. I will say that she and Hunter Parrish do look wonderful together, but in their duets her voice is compeltely over powered. I think Socha does a good job, but it primarily stems from her perfect look. Thankfully, Socha really pulls out the big guns in act II, and I have felt that each night she saves herself from to scathing a condemnation. Her rendition of “Whispering” is touching and lovely, and her “Why didn’t you tell me!” line towards her mother is wonderfully executed.

Eryn Murman managed to make the opening of the show unforgettable, and so it might be for that reason I am so easy to praise her. Her rendition of “Mama Who Bore Me” and “Mama Who Bore Me (reprise)” really got the entire show ready to be entertained. Her vocals were perfectly supported and had a wonderful tonal quality.

Christine Estabrook who plays “The Adult Women” should win an award. She manages not only to entertain the actors, who have seen the show a million times, but the audience as well. Each of the adult women has a posture, a voice, a personality, and they are wonderful to behold.

and finally, I feel that I save the best for last when I describe Emma Hunton as Ilse. Emma’s Ilse is perfect. Her voice is not only perfectly on pitch but it seems to flood throughout the room. It captivates you into looking at only her, and your ears itch to hear more once she is done. I cannot commend her performance enough. I remember my heart sank when I saw Jenna Ushkowitz understudy the role last Saturday. Ushkowitz was great, but Emma Hunton is able to make Ilse touch each audience member just as she touches each character in the cast. I hope she will do a recording as I think she is better than the original.

Bottom line!? GO SEE SPRING AWAKENING!

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2 Comments

  1. tanglethis said,

    September 9, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    Well. I maintain that I did not love the show. But I am apparently in love with the music.
    Since I’ve been listening to some of the original cast recording, I’m really struck by how wispy and childlike Alexandra Socha acted Wendla. It’s kind of an odd choice, but without having seen the other Wendlas, I think I have to kind of support that choice. It makes the “love” scene a little more ambiguous, a little more horrifying, since it becomes more plain that those characters really are children who have no idea what they’re doing because they’ve been taught nothing. It might seem counterintuitive, but I prefer the story be told that way than as (for example) some story of star-crossed lovers. I think the performance I saw with you was subtle and (maybe too) understated in pinpointing Uptight Society as the villain without completely exonerating the characters for the various kinds of violence they inflict on one another… which seems about right to me.

  2. December 12, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    […] Last night I attended Spring Awakening for the 5th time.  It was an incredible evening so I feel the need to supplement my earlier review. […]


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