Spring Awakening – One Cabaret Alumnus’ Honest Opinion

Spring Awakening’s opening weekend is in the books! One weekend left to see what some are calling “THE GREATEST SHOW TO EVER BE PRODUCED EVER IN THE HISTORY OF SEEING” and “ONE OF IF NOT THE MOST ELECTRIFYING NIGHTS SANS NIMBUS CLOUDS” and “Damn it’s freaking hot in here can we turn off the heaters for like 10 minutes?”

It's, like, period.

Really though, audiences have been digging what those talented boys and girls are doing with Duncan Sheik & Steven Sater’s Tony-Award winning musical. One weekend left, fanboys and fangirls! Reserve your tix!

In the meantime, a glowing review was left in our Inside Cabaret inbox by none other than Mr. David “A-Lister” Seamon. A recent Rutgers graduate and Cabaret alumnus, Dave was nominated for a Cabbie award for his eye-turning, head-catching performance as Stanley “STELLLLAAAAA” Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire during Cabaret’s 2010-2011 season.

Dave Seamon acting real hard with Deanna Klapischak.

Recently, Dave has been continuing his passion for performing and theatre through various auditions and goosebump inducing turns as JESUS CHRIST in JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (at Villager’s Theatre in Somerset, NJ):

THIS IS SOME DRAMATIC S**T!

Dave has also recently acquired an editor position in East Brunswick for patch.com. In other words, he’s putting his Rutgers degree in journalism/media studies to work. See! Those things are good for something other than wall decoration (or bookends).

You can catch more of Dave’s writing at patch.com, chimpshots.wordpress.com (movie reviews with other Cabbie, Joey Braccino), and at the less exciting standard social media engines. Like youtube, where you can see him make sweet, sweet love music.

In the meantime, check out his glowing review of Spring Awakening below!!!

It was hard work like this that earned Dave the Cabbie nomination for Best Actor in a Play.

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This is what I dig: live performance. The energy, the costumes, the lights, the angst, the desperation, the audience, etc. It takes guts to put on a show. Guts and balls! Am I easy to please? Maybe. But is it easy to put on a musical? Hell no! Therefore, if you read this detailed, positive review and find you are unable to move past the fact that I know everyone in this show, that I am an alumnus of Cabaret Theater myself, and that I have an insane level of bias, stop reading now. Because you don’t get what I’m trying to do. I have love for everyone in this cast, and I have objective, peer-to-peer respect for everything they have done with Spring Awakening. College theater is so seldom reviewed, and when it is, it is done by cynical journalism majors with an axe to grind (the irony in that sentence is coincidental, I promise). So allow me to take this time to gush. And again, stop reading NOW if you can’t handle reading positive reviews by happy people.

And then I said, "Well, Nelly, will you help me put my knickers back on? Because my nurse won't be in again until Tuesday!"

I had a feeling while watching Spring Awakening at Cabaret Theater that I was watching a passion project movie. You know the kind. The Fighter by David O. Russell, Black Swan by Darren Aranofsky, Funny People by Judd Apatow. The director is so present in them, and it gives clear and electrifying purpose to the production. With Spring Awakening, Director and Queen Farnaz Mansouri has injected the show with explosive characters dripping with angst and energy. By casting the show as impeccably as she and Assistant Director and Queen Allison Addona have, Spring Awakening is effortlessly able to soar on the youthful wings of the “f**k my life” mantra.

Spring Awakening tells the story of a handful of horny kids in 1890s Germany who want to put their something in, on, or around someone else’s something, but their cowardly parents never taught them anything about sex or its deep dark secret (it gets girls pregnant!). Thus, the boys are confined to the classroom where they conjugate classical Greek day in and day out, and the girls prepare to be the only thing they are expected to be: wives and mothers who wait for the stork. As the parents and teachers start to lose their little automatons to the temptations of sexual expression, the children are made to choose one of three ways to live their lives: stick to the status quo (“oh no NO NO!”), rock the boat, or let the system crush them. What ensues is a raw, honest portrayal of how acquiescing to any of the three choices can have grave consequences.

As Moritz and Melchior, Joey Braccino and Marc Mills depict defeat and rebellion respectively. With his twitching, “Professor Frink goes to Columbine” characterization, Braccino is at once both heartbreaking and electrifying to watch. He plays Moritz as a passionate psycho/sociopath, to whom conventional society has shown no patience. His foil? Marc Mills as Melchior. He is well-loved, intelligent, cunning, and handsome- a savior who doesn’t care about saving anyone. His Melchior knows all along that as promising as the future is, not everyone’s story has a happy ending. And Mills has firm, toned buttocks.

Firm, Toned Buttocks.

Lauren Sagnella is tragic and beautiful as Wendla. Her portrayal is sympathetic to the ignorance that comes with being a young girl. Sagnella affects emptiness behind her eyes, a sadness that accompanies her childishness. It haunts the show from “Mama who Bore Me” to Wendla’s final scene. Adding hollowness to Wendla allows each of her songs to tell a deeper story, putting the whole show into every scene.

Amanda Padro and Alexandra Hausner bring their giant balls to the table with Marta and Ilse. The showstopping “Dark I Know Well” is haunting and beautifully sung by these two vocal powerhouses (“powerhausner” and “padrohouse”). Padro and Hausner portray what it means to let society beat you down and to rock the boat respectively. And as actresses, they rise to the challenge of showing what each choice does to a young girl: Padro with her big, heartbroken eyes, and Hausner with her flower child, “I’m not okay, but that’s okay” airiness.

Tyler Picone and Nick Cartusciello play Hanschen and Ernst, two curious young men who don’t have to worry about getting anyone pregnant. Their reprise of “The Word of your Body” was funny and touching for all the right reasons. It was a romantic, playful, and also sad moment. Cartusciello is the most well-cast actor at Rutgers. I’ve never watched him and thought he was misplaced or uncomfortable. He knows his type, and plays to his strengths. Picone is another miracle man. His voice would make Adam Levine and Cee Lo Green punch Christina Aguilera in the neck. It’s like listening to angels have sex. He is another well-utilized actor. Every time I see Cartusciello or Picone in a show, they’ve always grown since the last one. Keep your eye on them.

... No Chance.

Boris Van Der Ree and Jenna Fagan play the foolish, cowardly adults. If you don’t know the show, two actors play all the adult characters from the teachers to each child’s parents. Van der Ree and Fagan manage to embody the oxymoron of an “immature adult.” Constantly running away from the problem and dodging the open-mindedness of the kids, they bring a light-hearted stubbornness to the show without making it silly. They were simultaneously caricatures and honest representations of adults from our youth. And in act two, they give us two emotional peaks that really hit home (this is a spoiler-free review, but ya’ll know).

You can depend on Will Carey to deliver the goods in any show, but rock musicals are where he shines. I was consistently drawn to him and his wild hair during “The Bitch of Living.” Carey is another electrifying actor. He really gives his body to the choreography throughout the show, and he has a powerful, consistent rock tenor voice. Newcomer Jordan Hafetz was a joy to watch as Otto. He has a great “puppy in the headlights” expression during “The Bitch of Living” that made me wonder…if the show were about Otto, would he turn out to be another Moritz?

As Thea and Anna, Meg Gillan and Francesca Fiore round out the circle of young girls. Their parts are underwritten, but that didn’t stop Gillan and Fiore from making choices and coming alive on stage. Gillan gives off a “leader of the pack” vibe, with her coy grin and smoky voice, from the moment she charges onstage in “Mama Who Bore Me (Reprise).” Fiore, on the opposite end, put on her costume and became eleven years old all over again. She has so much innocence in her face and body language that when her back was turned, I swore they had hired a middle school girl.

Visually, the show is a treat. A minimal set and fantastic costumes by Abby Nutter compliment the raw creation at hand in Spring Awakening. Who needs a giant swing and a trap door in the floor when you can just as easily let the actors play with the space and lights? The shows final vignette is especially gorgeous.

Like most shows in the world, the sound was a problem at times. In a space as small as Cabaret, it usually makes no sense to mic the actors individually. But in a show where there is a four-piece rock band right in the middle of the audience (the show is performed basically in a round), individual mics would have helped. Sometimes, an actor turning their back meant their lines were lost to one side of the theater. This is an issue that sound engineers will never stop dealing with at Rutgers and beyond. I saw RENT on Broadway in 2002, and I had no idea wtf any of them were saying. The songs “You’ll See” and “New Years Eve” made my head feel like jelly because of how muddled the sound was. That just goes to show you that sound issues exist everywhere- from middle school musical productions all the way up to the top. In Spring Awakening, it never affected my enjoyment of the performance, but it did hinder my appreciation for the lyrics and dialogue. But that, dear readers, is the main reason for my initial disclaimer…I like live performance. I can move past mic issues if the energy level is right. And in this show, it was right on the money.

Go see Spring Awakening at Cabaret Theater this coming weekend, April 13-15. Get showtimes and ticket info at Cabarettheater.org or on Facebook. It’s a great way to celebrate the end of a school year and the beginning of Summer, when young love and life decisions go hand-in-hand and the myth of childhood opens up to the reality of adulthood. If you’re graduating, that is. If not, stay in school. Stay as loooong as you can. For the love of God, cherish it!

If you got the reference, you win.

You gotta cherish it. You do.

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Again, special thanks to Mr. Dave “Look at my awesome Beard” Seamon for sharing his thoughts with us. It’s always wonderful having alumni return to Cabaret for shows, and this blog lets them share their appreciation and memories with the WHOLE WORLD.

If you’d like to contribute to Inside Cabaret, click here!!!!!!

Also, do as Dave says! Tickets are selling faster than cheese wiz in the ’50s!

Reserve Reserve Reserve!!!!!!!!

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