All Shall Know the Wonder: BU On Broadway Presents Spring Awakening
Earlier this month, BU On Broadway rounded out its spectacular 2011-2012 with the groundbreaking rock musical Spring Awakening, by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater. The musical, having premiered on Broadway in 2006, depicts the suppressed sexual and moral teachings of a teenage society. Themes including homosexuality, abuse, rape, and violence are explored, and although the actions of the play take place in 19th century Germany, the musical effectively parallels this framework within modern society.
I could not have been more honored to end my producing days with BU student theatre and this production. I was absolutely a Spring Awakening groupie in high school, and while my musical theatre taste has expanded in the past few years, this show was a catalyst for the discovery of many other favorite shows.
Because of how recently Spring Awakening played Broadway, and how popular it was, it is hard to deny that there is some attachment to certain elements of the original production: the use of hand mics, period costumes, and a brick wall with all sorts of neon lights and artifacts. I was admittedly skeptical when BU On Broadway first announced the show, as I wasn’t sure of how directors Kat Pernicone (CAS 2013) and Mia Sommese (CAS 2013) would adapt the show through their own directorial vision. However, after hearing more about their interpretation, sitting in on rehearsals, and finally seeing the show in Tsai, I must commend the two (as well as Musical Director Jonathan Brenner, CFA 2012, and Assistant Musical Director John Baublitz, CFA 2015) on creating a production so distinctive—one that showed an appreciation for the original while maintaining clear individuality.
Of the many strengths of this production, I was extremely impressed by the vocal power of the small 13-person cast. Spring Awakening marks Jonathan Brenner’s last show as musical director with On Broadway, and what a show to end on. Every cast member shined in their solos and blended beautifully on the ensemble numbers (the finale, “The Song of Purple Summer,” was particularly breathtaking, complete with an a cappella final verse). Joe Reed (CAS 2014) deserves a special shout-out, who left the audience screaming his name after his riff-filled solo as Georg in “Touch Me.” There were certain embellishments to the score, likely crafted by Jonathan, that aided in setting the vocals of the cast apart from those of productions past.
Also particularly effective was Mia Sommese’s choreography. Mia displayed an understanding that with a show this intimate, a certain fluid, evocative movement style is needed to convey the emotions of the characters. At no point did the numbers appear over-choreographed, a deceivingly challenging accomplishment. Still, the movement was very honest to the moment or emotion it sought to illustrate.
Lastly, I’d love to commend Kat and Mia on tackling this aggressive and progressive show, and for depicting the controversial material the show contains with a respect and passion that this show requires. After having seen the original production an unmentionable amount of times, this production was incredibly refreshing, and I found myself seeing characters in ways I never had done before—a result not just of spectacular performances, but solid direction and vision.
Ryan McPhee (COM 2012) Indulging in art on the stage, in the kitchen, and everywhere in between. @mchadoaboutryan