Don't let its title fool you – the Tony Award-winning musical SPRING AWAKENING, playing now through July 8 at the Keegan Theatre inDupont Circle, is no light-hearted walk in the park. It is an emotional and thought-provoking story, which, combined with a wonderful and haunting score, makes it an unforgettable experience.
Winner of 8 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, SPRING AWAKENING is based on the play by Frank Wedekind, and features a book and lyrics by Steven Sater and music by Duncan Sheik. The show follows the unforgettable journey of a group of students in late 19th centuryGermanyas they move from adolescence into adulthood. Facing both the devastation and the wonder of sexuality and self-discovery, the characters navigate through their coming-of-age despite parents and authority figures who are intent on withholding information and suppressing thought and expression.
As would be expected for a show with these themes, bear in mind that SPRING AWAKENING is best suited for mature teens and adults. It contains strong language, partial nudity and adult themes. If R-rated movies are too much for you, you'll want to steer clear of this show. But you'll be missing out on a real treat if you do!
Directed by two time Helen Hayes nominees Susan Marie Rhea and Mark A. Rhea, Spring Awakening features actors Ali Hoxie, Nora Palka, Cody Boehm, Sarah Chapin, Lyndsay Rini, Vincent Kempski, Paul Scanlan, Charlotte Akin, Jon Townson, Nick Lehan, Gannon O'Brien, Alex Alferov, Stephen Murray, Sean Burns, David Rea, MaryKate Brouillet and Emily Dey.
One of the interesting things about the Keegan Theatre is its small size. At first, I wasn't sure how that would work with a show that wasn't necessarily written for a smaller venue, but the theater actually added an intimacy to the show that worked very well. The actors often entered and exited through the center aisle and I felt like I was right there in the middle of the story with them.
One audience member commented, "I saw this show when it was at the Kennedy Center three years ago, and I think I liked it better in this small space!"
The cast is quite young, with the exception of Charlotte Akin and Jon Townson, who play the Adult Women and Adult Men roles superbly. The young talent is impressive, with lead actors Ali Hoxie as Wendla and Vincent Kempski as Melchior standing out in particular.
The live musicians play their hearts out in the Keegan Theatre, and it shows. I found myself humming several of the songs in the car on the way home, a sure sign that the show had made a lasting impression. I plan to buy the soundtrack so that I can enjoy the score, which runs the gamut from folk to rock, over and over.
"We are pleased to bring our audiences the first Washington, DC-produced version of SPRING AWAKENING," says director Mark A. Rhea. "This musical is a perfect fit for our storytelling approach and our intimate space, and people are going to be blown away by the power of this script and music. As producers, we're also thrilled to introduce exciting, young talent to our audiences – many of these young people are new to Keegan, and it's been a joy to work with such fresh faces on this incredible piece of musical theater. The combination of our hard work, the talent we have found, the design team we have assembled, and this amazing material will be electrifying."
I couldn't agree more. SPRING AWAKENING runs through July 8, so don't miss out. Contact the box office at 703-892-0202, or visit www.keegantheatre.com.