Sex, love and revolution in ‘Spring Awakening’

Members of the cast of "Spring Awakening" sing passionately. (Concordiensis | Cat Blewer)

This weekend Union’s student-run theater group, the Mountebanks, will be performing the emotional rock musical Spring Awakening, directed by theater major Elizabeth ‘Lizzy’ Magas ‘15.

This is Magas’s directing debut and to say she did a “good job” is a big understatement.

The show itself is very challenging to ‘get right,’ and any person with an ounce of musical theater knowledge will tell you that performing Spring Awakening is both dream and nightmare.

On the surface, it follows Wendla Bergman, a young girl in pursuit of sexual knowledge and ‘awakening.’

Yet if you allow the musical to linger and unravel, you realize that it is much more than that—it is a story of oppression.

Set in 1892 Germany, Spring Awakening depicts societal oppression that carries over into oppression within the family unit, dealing with delicate subjects such as abuse, domestic violence, suicide and death.

“The show does have a lot of pretty heavy content, and is known for how racy is can be.

I spent a lot of time thinking about how to communicate this story without actually showing everything,” said Magas.

Her ‘show, don’t tell’ philosophy carries over exceedingly well onto the stage, especially in the overtly sexual scenes that could easily have been easily labeled as an x-rated displays.

The actors contribute to the depiction of romance as well, with Adam Weisse ‘15 and Em Hiller ‘18 making the passionate romance of Melchior and Wendla realistic and emotionally powerful.

The singing in this show is quite impressive, with not one person going without a solo line and absolutely smashing it.

Weisse stuns as usual, and newcomer Hiller creates a precious and pathetic character in Wendla, guaranteeing the collective tug at the audience’s heartstrings.

Her loss of innocence coupled with alienation due to fear of religion and her corrupt society creates amazing juxtaposition.

“The music is just beautiful. I could and have listened to the soundtrack multiple times a day.

But I think what’s great about this show, is how cathartic it is.

The music exists in the characters’ minds and is their way of communicating some pretty real frustrations with the audience,” Magas said.

The music being in the characters’ minds was perfectly executed, with background characters freezing in place while others would be drenched in blue or red lighting as they sang their story.

When Karin Tillsley ‘15 and Mollie Orr ‘15 share their song ‘The Dark I Know Well,’ and Orr’s ‘Spring and Summer,’ no spine will be left without tingles.

The lighting combined with the powerful words and two of the most amazing voices on this campus will leave the audience breathless and with tears behind their eyes.

Yeah, it’s that good.

Not only will the music repeat itself in your head for days after you see this incredible show, the impact of the message is sure to linger for a much longer time.

By the middle second act, the ‘deed’ is done, tragedy has struck and Weisse’s Melchior finally stands up to the corrupt “contemptible bourgeois” society.

He urges Wendla to build a different world with him and his passion for revolution takes form in the best song of the show, ‘Totally F*cked.’

In this song the children are all deemed immoral, and they support Melchior’s confrontation, all jumping around shouting ‘blah, blah, blah’ in the administration’s faces.

The energy of this song could have carried out into all of the songs and that would have made for an even better show.

This musical is a must see for all of Union’s campus, but how did Magas come to choose such a show?

“When you set out to direct a piece though, the biggest question you should ask is ‘Why this and why now?’

We’re all in a weird transitory period of life, just like these characters, and it often feels like everyone older than we are is against us and anyone younger just wouldn’t get it.

This show makes us aware of each other as we navigate these transitions, and so it’s an important story to tell,” sad Magas.

If you’re looking for a night of entertainment and emotion, I highly recommend seeing this show.

I gaurantee you will not regret it. And if you do, I owe you a sandwich.

I do advise getting there early to get a front row seat, as some actors don’t project, the band is loud and you need to hear everything in order for it to have the full effect.

Bring a box of tissues, friends, this one tugs at the heart as well as the mind.   The show runs Thursday through Saturday at 7:00 p.m. in Old Chapel.



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