Posted on 4 Feb 2010 by Mitch Metz
photo: Kevin H.; view this photo on Flickr
Playing now through 2/7 at the Belk Theater
An 1891 German play? Rock musical? What is this, a mix between Tommy, Jesus Christ Superstar, and The Sound Of Music? Well, you know what, I loved those musicals, and on a rainy Tuesday night at the Belk Theater in Charlotte, I fell in love with Spring Awakening too.
The somewhat controversial winner of 8 Tony Awards has been reviewed thousands of times since it hit Broadway, so I’ll save you the same old thing you could learn via Wikipedia. I’ll instead concentrate on this particular touring cast of youngsters who performed so brilliantly.
Christy Altomare (Wendla) opens the show by asking her mother where babies come from with ”Mama Who Bore Me”. Christy not only nails all her numbers in this performance, but during ”Whispering”, I found myself thinking ”when I go to heaven, I hope the angels sing as well as this”. The young actress/vocalist is well worth the price of your ticket. You will be seeing more and more of her in the future, I guarantee it.
The show progresses at a high energy pace through some very tough subjects. One would not think erotic dreams, self exploration, and sexual abuse to be the typical ”fun night out at the theater”, and not only does it work, but these actors show amazing ability as they take us through the taboo spectrum, enlightening and embracing us along the way.
Taylor Trensch (Moritz) was fantastic, and somehow seemed naturally neurotic (yes Taylor, that’s a compliment) as a young man struggling with all sorts of new feelings as he progresses into manhood. I believed his confusion, his pain, and enjoyed the peek into his mind during ”The Bitch Of Living”.
Sarah Hunt (Martha) and Steffi D (Ilse) were the duet of the night with the very powerful ”The Dark I Know Well”. A touching tale of child abuse that left the audience so moved, we sat in respectful awe, not wanting to break the moment until we just HAD to applaud their gift. An honorable mention would be Taylor and Steffi performing the heartwarming ”Don’t Do Sadness/Blue Wind”.
Angela Reed and John Wojda play all the adult roles, and moved from character to character flawlessly. Without the benefit of a wardrobe change, they still made it most obvious to all theater patrons which role they were playing, not an easy task at all.
Which brings us to the male lead, on this night played by Matt Shingledecker (Melchior), who stepped up from his understudy role due to Jake Epstein suffering a back injury. Jake may be able to join the cast again in a few days, and I’ll be looking forward to his performance as well. In the meantime, Matt filled his shoes admirably. The first act was a little rough, and at times, I felt like the lines were a little scripted (yes, I know they ARE scripted, I just don’t want them to sound that way), however, when the second act opened up, Matt opened up as well, and took us through some incredibly powerful emotions. He delivered the musical numbers with passion and verve, and took command of the stage. During ”Totally F’ed”, with the rest of the ensemble joining in, I thought Matt might fade, but instead, the young man stepped up to the plate and hit it out of the park!
Another star of the show would be how it’s presented technically. Lighting and sound are balanced, the set is open and inviting, and the freedom with which characters moved on and off stage was unique and well done. The band was on stage throughout the performance, making it seem like a rock concert at times.
Overall, this is one of the most fantastic shows you will ever see. It will entertain and touch you. You’ll remember confusion and frustration from your own adolescence, your heart will pour out to the abused, you’ll laugh with Melchior when he realizes he’s F’ed, and you’ll tell all your friends, just as I am … you must see Spring Awakening at the Belk, playing now through February 7th!