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Spring Awakening – Broadway Studio Theatre, London

Writer: Frank Wedekind

Book and lyrics: Steven Sater

Music: Duncan Sheik

Director: Adam ‘Bo’ Boland

Reviewer: Rosie Wheat


Spring Awakening is definitely not a light, seasonal musical that celebrates the coming of summer. It is the sort of play where you need to choose your theatre companion carefully; you really can’t watch teenagers explore the terrifying world of sexual impulses with just anyone.

Scandalously written in 1892 by German Frank Wedekind, Spring Awakening depicts the fleeting crisis of where boys and girls are neither children nor adults, when the body has a mind of its own and you’re more inclined to feel than think.

Breaking 19th Century boundaries with its content of sex, child abuse, masturbation, homosexuality and suicide, the play has been repeatedly banned and censored throughout history.

Steven Sater and Duncan Shiek have released the often alluded to but hardly ever spelled out script with their musical revival. Those secret conversations at the back of the class, those unsaid desires that madden the adolescent brain, all are quite literally voiced in an impressive medley of energetic, and often hilarious, folk-rock songs. Sater and Shiek have ingeniously interwoven the downtrodden plot of Spring Awakening with a score of toe-tapping triumph.

Did the Broadway Studio Theatre company do such a complicated musical justice? Absolutely. Imagine getting the chance to watch a young cast of Rent or We Will Rock You performing in a space the size of a London theatre’s broom cupboard. It’s a lot of talent in a little space.

Leads Joshua Tonks as Melchior and Victoria Serra as Wendler are stunning, their voices straight out of the musical textbook with a pinch of personality and soul. Greg Oliver is a particular highlight, his energy is magnetic, and his solos show off his capability to switch from hoarse, kick-starting vocals to soft, hair-raising notes.

Imaginatively staged (Designer Rachel Dingle), the talented case fall into the trap of sexual ignorance surrounded by chalk boards, a broken bedstead and little else. It is a depressing stage, but with every scene the actors chalk up new drawings, until gradually the boards fill up with the stories they have told. It’s a good concept, but occasionally the focus is a competition between the action and the stage.

However, this production is an impressive one. Nothing commends a director more than not knowing what to commend him for. Adam Boland is invisible, he has got the best out of his actors and his work is seamless with their performance. Definitely one to hop on a tube for.

Runs until 2nd December

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