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Theatre Review (LA): Spring Awakening by Sater and Sheik at the Egyptian Arena

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The first time I saw Spring Awakening as a musical I had very mixed feelings. The set, the cast, the direction were all first rate. I even liked the music, though it didn’t seem to fit the book. The characters in the play by Frank Wedekind were totally repressed and innocent, even Melchior has only an academic understanding of how babies are conceived. The rock and roll music belied their innocence and seemed inappropriate to the story. Rock is by nature knowing and sexual, and rarely innocent. The music has also been described by at least two people I know as something that was pre-composed, put in a trunk, and plucked out to put in the show. At least two of the songs, on listening again to the score, were obviously written for the piece but it goes to show how the music and book didn’t seem to belong together.

The talented director Kate Sullivan, who has directed the first intimate theatre production of Spring Awakening at The Theatre of Arts Egyptian Arena Stage for Over The Moon Productions, has solved this awkward disparity between book and music by an invented device of placing four singers in modern garb who sit on the stage with several audience members but sing with the cast thus creating a modern equivalency to the story. The message becomes that things that happen in the plot still exit today. She has assembled a dynamite cast headed by Mat Vairo (who has star quality) as Melchior, a brooding Chase Williamson as the tragic Moritz, and Lindsay Pearce (from Glee) as the poor Wendla. How appropriate the play seems with all the recent talk of making contraception illegal and the attempts to vacate Roe Versus Wade. Special mention must go to Rachael Lawrence the musical director and the extraordinary work of Laura Harrison the choreographer.

Spring Awakening will play at the Egyptian Arena until April 22. Well worth seeing and some say better than Broadway.

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