Watertower Theatre’s decision to stage “Spring Awakening,” the raucous musical that took Broadway’s coveted Tony Award for best musical in 2007, surprised quite a few people when the theatre announced it would be open their 2011-2012 season. The surprise came for many reasons, among them Watertower's Addison location and the fact that the Dallas cultural behemoth, the AT&T Performing Arts Center, brought the touring version of the musical to the Winspear Opera House just last season.
However surprising the production, Watertower's production rocks. In case you’ve been living under a rock, here’s a short synopsis. The plot follows a group of teenagers in late 19th century Germany where a repressed adult population struggles to cope with the “rebelliousness” of the younger generation. We see the group in and out of school as they deal with their changing bodies and evolving desires.
The show is not your typical Broadway musical. It’s part of the new school of modern American musical in the vein of “Rent” and “In the Heights;” musicals that deal with the heavy issues facing our generation instead of serving as an escape. The kids in “Spring Awakening” cope with things such as abuse, suicide and abortion, all while singing one of the most beautiful and powerful scores to come out of Broadway in a long time.
Back to the production at hand. Watertower’s version of the show manages to be at the same time quiet and powerful. The set puts all of the action in the midst of the audience and the young cast conveys the angst and emotion of the teenagers with infectious energy and beautiful sadness.
Each member of the cast turns in a beautiful vocal performance, important because the indie-rock score, by Duncan Sheik, is truly the star of the show. Songs such as “The Guilty Ones” and “Touch Me” are breathtaking, while “Totally F***ed” and “My Junk” are full of intensity.
Leads Melchior and Wendla played by Jonathan Gilland and Erica Harte respectively turn in stunning performances and exhibit a pretty good chemistry. Other standouts include Adam Garst as the troubled Moritz Schtieffel and Kayla Carlyle as the free-spirit Ilse.
If you haven’t had a chance to see the show live, make a trip to Watertower. The show's a pop culture phenomenon and Watertower’s production does the music and the story more than justice. You’ll love every minute.
“Spring Awakening” plays at Watertower Theatre now through October 23. For ticket prices and performance schedule visit www.watertowertheatre.com.