Posts Tagged ‘spring awakening


Spring Awakening

Spring Awakening

Underground Broadway

Metro Arts Sue Benner Theatre

August 23 – September 8 2018


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward




A Children’s Tragedy…


What serves each of us best is what serves all of us…


Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater’s Spring Awakening, based on the controversial drama by Frank Wedekind, written in 1891 though not staged until 1906 (and not performed in English until 1917 in New York City, when it was deemed pornographic and closed after just one show), successfully opened on Broadway in 2006.


Directed by Michael Mayer and choreographed by Bill T. Jones, the acclaimed original production went on to win eight Tony Awards including Best Original Score and Best Musical, and launched the careers of Lea Michelle and Jonathan Groff as Wendla and Melchior, doomed teens drawn to each other in a world where parents, ministers and teachers smother that next generation in silence and shame. With its themes of puberty, fantasy, masturbation, depression, death, grief, sex, suicide, abuse, forced teen abortion, control and censorship (ironically, the 2006 Tony Award performance was heavily censored!), it’s no wonder schools opt to stay away from this dark show. Originally much darker, since the NYC workshops preceding the Broadway opening, there’s no longer a rape implied at the end of Act 1. Instead, this issue, as prevalent as ever, is addressed by Ilsa (Ruby Clark, lovely in this role, proving her versatility after a couple of turns at Maureen in RENT and Rizzo in Grease: The Arena Experience), and Martha (Jordan Malone, back after Understudy Productions’ BARE and next, joining the professional touring cast of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) in The Dark I Know Well.



Tim Hill’s Spring Awakening opens innocently, quietly and gently leading us into the sneaky little showstopper, a highlight of this production, Mama Who Bore Me, featuring the entire fierce female contingent of this stellar cast from Underground Broadway, coming together in solidarity to stomp and sing and state their place, i.e. their confusion and frustration as young women in the world without the knowledge they need to stay safe and strong. Ruby Clark, Jordan Malone, Jacqui McLaren, Monique Dawes and Maddison McDonald are uniformly excellent in this powerful and inspiring anti-anthem of the sisterhood. We get the sense that nothing can stop them but…




Jacqui Mclaren (Wendla) elicits shivers in her first simple moments on the small Sue Benner stage, sitting as still as a porcelain doll, seemingly just as fragile, but not, building up the courage to ask Mama to let her in on the secrets of life, and later discovering the ecstasy and horror for herself. In McLaren’s take on Wendla we see the embodiment of the maiden archetype and sadly – spoiler – she never has the chance to fully embrace that energy, or to get a look in on the mother or crone. 


Not condoning or encouraging any more boot Broadway footage online ever, of course, but watch Deaf West’s opening minutes here to experience additional layers to this and every other scene. Seriously. Deaf West will change your musical theatre life.



No more spoilers, but Mclaren is missing a final scream of terror as she’s taken away; this omission is likely the director’s call. There are other missteps, including a slap across the face that fails to make us squirm, the birch branch caning that  fails to make us gasp, and a gunshot represented by a snap to black, without the sound effect…a-hem. Chekhov, anyone? Even with Wes Bluff’s lights, Ben Murray’s sound and choreography by Deanna Castellana, sans these disturbing images, some of the pivotal moments, landing like stones in the pit of our stomachs, this production lacks a little intensity. I came away with a similar feeling after Hill’s RENT. Is it just me? Is it just a matter now though, of trusting the actors to delve deeper, push further, play around a little more, take a little more time in the process to discover the full extent of the breath, and the actual natural responses and timing for the stage? This does take time, a careful eye and brave hearts – guts – all round. Despite its slightly lighter, nicer treatment (others will certainly consider it a shocking show, sure, of course), Spring Awakening is undoubtedly Hill’s most astute direction to date, with Act 1 offering the most attention to detail. Having said that, the reprise of The Word of Your Body and the fraught scene embedded within Whispering are both beautifully precise. Dominic Woodhead’s musical direction perfectly supports both the upbeat and more measured, melancholy pieces.


Elise Grieg affirms her place towards the top of the Brisbane tree, playing every female adult (as Melchior’s mother, refreshingly real), and as every male adult, James Shaw demonstrates again that he can play the pious, the ridiculous and the serious with aplomb. Their elderly scholarly characters are deliberately larger than life, terrifying and amusing in that sickening what-are-you-gonna’-do-about-it way. I don’t love them; it could be considered another missed opportunity to highlight the subtle horror of the reality these kids are in, no need for caricatures but instead, an undercurrent…


Meanwhile, poor Moritz.



Oliver Lacey is a properly despairing and angst-ridden Moritz in the best British punk rock way (at the root of anger and sadness there is fear), Michael Nunn a beautiful, sensitive Ernst and Tim Carroll a delightfully wicked and seductive, street smart Hanschen. Harrison Aston, fresh from 8 months of touring life with Brainstorm Productions, has a distinctly Credence look and manner about him, as he navigates his way through the mire of adult expectations. Not a single member of this company goes as far as they can go, but this slightly sanitised staging is typical of what we’ve been seeing for a little while again, in fact, since Oscar Production Co was Oscar Theatre Co, and presented both Spring Awakening and Next to Normal in the most nonchalant and quietly confident way, challenging performers and patrons to take a good, hard look at themselves – ourselves – by taking those stories into a place of extreme discomfort. If you were there, you know. If not, if you’re a snapchatcat/millenial, perhaps this Spring Awakening is the most disturbing, and darkly exciting and challenging thing you’ve seen in a theatre. And that’s fine. 



Claire McFadyen’s beautifully realised Tim Burton-esque silently screaming lightbulb tree also points to the desire of this company to really provoke, and like the maiden / crone optical illusion, we can only see what we see in it, in the same way we each have our unique experience of every live show. So I want to be clear that it’s not a case of the talent not being evident, but of the impact of the storytelling falling short of expectations.


I feel like we’ve seen the prelude now; this year has been just the beginning for this company, and for these performers, who are able and probably willing, to go deeper and darker yet. Whether Tim Hill is prepared to take them there, or go there himself remains to be seen. There’s no denying that Underground Broadway has been blurring the lines between amateur and professional performance with regular industry nights since 2016 featuring professional performing artists and local emerging stars, making this company well worth following.


We’re certainly ready for what’s next.




Risk Productions’ Spring Awakening


Spring Awakening

Risk Productions

Roundhouse Theatre

1 – 2 November 2013


Reviewed by Meredith Walker


Spring Awakening is no ordinary musical; it is difficult, emotional and uncompromising. Rape, abortion, masturbation, homosexuality and suicide are odd concepts for what is generally a gentle musical, but this juxtaposition is what makes the teen tragicomedy such a unique theatre experience and a bold choice for Ipswich’s Risk Productions’ second show.




Since winning the 2007 Tony for best musical (one of its eight Tony accolades), Spring Awakening has only expanded its cult following, which is understandable in consideration of its catchy, albeit explicit, songs. And the music is certainly a highlight of this production. Orchestrated for a small rock band, supported by soulful strings, it conveys the yearning and frustration that underpin the show’s emotion. Indeed, from the opening, beautiful Mama Who Bore Me to the closing final ensemble finale, The Song of Purple Summer, it is often gorgeous in its soaring melodies and evocative rhythms. Though in many instances, the musical performances on stage miss the thematic mark, neither making your heart sink or soar, collective chorus numbers are harmonious and the male ensemble pieces are memorably entertaining, particularly Bitch of Living, which is brought to life with with high-energy movement, from rhythmic stomping to jumping on chairs.




Staging is simple and sparse, opening as some withered trees behind a lone wooden chair. This befits the haunting, intimate musical numbers, however, establishes expectation that what will be occurring on stage will be a highlight, without need for elaborate ornamentation. Unfortunately, this is an expectation left largely unrealised. The central trio of characters do not really emerge as fully rounded characters, which detracts from empathic audience engagement of their ultimate dooms. And having two actors play all the adult roles makes for a simplistic approach to the generational conflict at the core of a story of teens frustrated by their adolescent yearnings in a society where they are offered little, if any, information about sexuality.


Anna Elshaw is convincing in her portrayal of Wendla’s precarious position between girlhood and womanhood. All blonde hair and innocent eyes, she looks like something straight from the Little House on the Prairie as she pleads with her mother for the facts of life, only to be denied in a manner that leaves her vulnerable to her natural urges and ignorance. And from his first solo, All That’s Know, Patrick Daley gives a strong performance as tragic hero Melchoir. Jack Obrien’s portrayal of the befuddled Moritz, a young man struggling to satisfy family expectations and to understand his erotic dreams, is engaging in its almost painful insecurity. He captures the character’s physical and mental discomfort in both performance and song; when he moves out of nineteenth century German life and into pseudo-punk songs, his distorted facial expressions and jerky body movements channel shades of Sid Vicious. What a shame his vocals were so often inaudible.


Unfortunately, this was just one of a range of distracting technical difficulties. Sober white lighting, missed lighting cues and continuity costuming and prop issues, were all jarring to the audience and distracting from the show’s strengths.




Spring Awakening is controversial and daring, but an appealingly unique show, as unlike other musicals, the songs do not advance the plot, but, rather, provide an inner monologue, existing in the teenagers’ heads. To present it in La Boite’s Roundhouse Theatre, Australia’s only purpose built in-the-round theatre is a lofty ambition. For this ambition to be realised, however, all audience sections need to be equally engaged and the space needs to be filled with vocals. While it is disorienting to find nineteenth century German schoolboys suddenly yanking microphones from inside their costumes to perform as if in a rock concert, it is even more perplexing to realise that microphones are merely props, given how the audience struggles to hear so much of the show’s vocal delivery.




Spring Awakening is a sterling example of the risk-taking needed to keep theatre invigorated. Although its holistic potential may not have been realised in this instance, Risk Productions should be commended for its aspiration, as without risk, there can only be limited audience reward.



Risk’s Spring Awakening at La Boite tonight and tomorrow night!


See Spring Awakening tonight and tomorrow night only, at La Boite’s Roundhouse Theatre…



We saw Maia Knibb, who plays Ilse in this production, in Coolum Theatre Players’ production of Urinetown…






Director of Spring Awakening and playing the role of the Adult Male is David Harrison. Spring Awakening tops off what has been a massive year for David; it’s the fifth musical he’s performed in this year and the second he’s produced through Risk. After battling with skin cancer surgery which left him rather prominently facially scarred, the single father of two presumed his performing days were behind him. This attitude lasted all of about 2 months in the latter half of 2012, and performing in the smash comedy, [title of show] in February this year saw him return to the stage. It seems he’s refused to get off it since! [tos] was followed by The Last Five Years, the one act play Far From Perfect, The Music Man and last month (with his eldest daughter), The Sound of Music.


By establishing Risk in 2012, David sought to change the perception of music theatre in the Ipswich region, whilst seeking to showcase local and out of town talent to the wider Brisbane audiences. Despite receiving some well-meaning advice from several people (ie “you can’t perform Spring Awakening in Ipswich!”), he put together his creative team and cast and has done it anyway. Upon seeing the talent he had assembled for the show, he arranged for a short season at The Roundhouse Theatre, a huge gamble but one he believes in. Almost entirely self funded by himself and co-founder and close friend, Jim Orr, Risk Productions and Spring Awakening were born out of a belief in musical theatre being more than just light entertainment.



“Music – nothing touches the soul like music does. So why not perform terrific musicals that touch the soul and heart? That make you think? This show – well, it’s an amazing show. It entertains and it shocks and it touches you. It’s a wonderfully well rounded and beautiful script with astonishing music and I challenge anyone to come along and not be moved by it.” – David Harrison, Risk Productions Inc.






Winner of 8 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, 4 Drama Desk Awards, 4 Laurence Olivier Awards and a Grammy, Spring Awakening has been thrilling audiences across the world since it premiered on Broadway in 2006. Written by Steven Sater with music by Duncan Sheik, Risk Productions Inc is bringing this electrifying show to The Roundhouse for 2 nights only.


This landmark musical brings a fusion of morality, sexuality and folk induced rock that takes you on a journey of self discovery in a powerful celebration of youth and rebellion. Controversial and daring, this will be a production to remember.


Australia’s only purpose built “in-the-round” theatre, The Roundhouse is a perfect venue for Risk’s Spring Awakening.


Risk Productions Inc advises that due to adult language and themes, this show is suitable for mature audiences only.





oscar theatre co last minute audition spots

A quick note from Oscar Theatre Co

Yeah. You know them. They brought us [title of show]. They brought us Spring Awakening.

How could you NOT want to secure one of the last audition spots that have suddenly become available and be a part of whatever they do next?!

Due to some last minute changes, there are some spots still left at the Oscar Auditions this Sunday

(April 15th)

Check out details at and share this with anyone you think may be interested!

Can’t wait – if you’ve submitted you should all have heard times and details by now. If yours has gone missing in cyberspace, email

Peace out bitches. Bring it.