Spring Awakening – Another Cabaret Alumnus’ Honest Opinion

Hopefully you were able to run your digital fingers under the digital lines to guide your digital eyes right along Dave Seamon’s fantastic review of Cabaret Theatre’s production of Spring Awakening. If not, click that hyper link right now!

Or click it right after reading YET ANOTHER stellar review of Spring Awakening from YET ANOTHER stellar Cabaret alumni.

His name is Matthew Hadodo. He is amazing. This is him giving a Cabbie-nominated performance in Cabaret’s February 2010 production of Ken Ludwig’s Shakespeare in Hollywood:

Vintage Matt.

Matt is another recent graduate of Rutgers University, with a degree in the uniquely awesome field of Linguistics (AND Spanish Linguistics). He’s spent the last year working up to the position of Editor-In-Chief at Parables & Books, and recently received some wonderful news about academic opportunities in the foreign land of freaking SPAIN:

SPAIN! Google doesn't even know how to get there...

So congratulations to Matt, and we at Inside Cabaret are very thankful that he dropped the following review into our inbox. Read ahead, True Believer! And reserve your gorram tickets for Spring Awakening!

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Before I begin my glowing–no, incandescent–review of Cabaret Theatre’s production of Spring Awakening (believe me, there was a lot of shining going on), allow me to share how much I do not like this show.

DO NOT WANT KNICKERS AND GERMANY

I really do not like this show.

Thank you.  I had to get that off my chest.   You see, most people in my age group (25 and younger) that are musical theater aficionados tend to gravitate towards angst-ridden shows such as RENT and Spring Awakening that, in my highly elevated opinion, have little to no character development, which in turn leads to unsympathetic motivations and thus actions that just fall really flat.

Soooo, we don't have to sing about it?

In other words, they’re not good.

But we love them.  Why?  Sweeping scores that provide emotional engagement in ways that the script can’t.  However, Cabaret Theatre’s production of Spring Awakening is filled with so much pathos (Which is coming from the Greek word which means passion) that I was choked up for a large portion of the play.  I’m also an emotional mess (Sun, Moon, Ascendant, Rising, Mercury, Venus, Pluto all in Scorpio so a lot of Water action on my birth chart) but do not allow that to overshadow the rest of this review.

So then, why did I even bother driving the 50+ miles from my house in Bergen County to see this production?  Well, I know quite a few members of the cast and even had the distinct honor and privilege to work in a Directors’ Scene showcase with the director a few years back.  Yes, I had the once in a lifetime opportunity to share the stage with Farnaz playing a married couple that had no social skills whatsoever and made complete fools of themselves.  No acting was performed on my part in that scene.  Farnaz Mansouri, for those of you who do not know, is an exceptionally beautiful Persian Princess whose catlike poise and beauty is only surpassed by her keen insight to the subtext of a plot and her amazingly observant nature and storytelling skills.  In other words, girl is smart and really good at what she does.

Farnaz Mansouri, according to Matt's description

Having been involved with various directors’ scenes, open-mic knights, main stages etc. I know just how difficult the Cabaret Theatre’s black box space can be to work with.  Farnaz and Company were very practical in staging Spring Awakening in the round.  This provided the entire audience with completely unique vantage points and experiences throughout each showing, which is essentially what theater is all about: the individual’s unique connection with the art before them.  This definitely heightened and never detracted from the mood for me, as my front row corner seat was prime for certain scenes.  A key scene in which Boris Van Der Ree (who along with Jenna Fagan had perhaps the most difficult assignment in playing various characters throughout the show and yet still managed to make each one distinct from one another) mourns the loss of his son was performed completely back to me and yet the crippling bereavement was intensified as the lighting played with the staging.

Lauren Ann Sagnella is just breathtaking as Wendla.  Her naïveté shines through and really makes Wendla appear to be a young innocent child who is curious about the world she lives in.  She truly adds a quiet vulnerability and subtlety to the show that can often be missed in other productions.  Lauren is also really White.  Like alabaster or those porcelain dolls your mother bought to decorate your room when you were an infant.

Marc Mills’ performance as Melchior showed the actor’s immense versatility.  Having seen him appear as characters ranging from Sweeney Todd, Jesus (Godspell) and Cinderella’s Prince (Into the Woods), I was pleased to see Marc approach Melchior exactly as he should be played; a highly gifted, thoughtful young man who is more advanced for his years than his peers, yet is still humble to maintain close ties with childhood friends.  I found myself connecting to the character as he (editor’s note: SPOILERS AHEAD) loses his friend, lover and childhood seemingly all at once.

Perhaps the most engaging individual performance was given to us by no other than the man, the myth, the legend himself: Joey Braccino.  Joey is like taking the best feature from each of the founders of the Legion of Superheroes (He definitely will get this reference) and combining them with the newer legionnaires to form Cosmic Saturn Brainiac Kid.  Whereas weaker actors would make Moritz appear to be a mere caricature, Joey clearly spent much time dedicated to developing a real back story for Moritz that translates to the heartbreaking portrayal of a seriously confused, socially awkward teenager who was the product of an abusive home.  My heart went out to him.

One of my favorite aspects of the theater is that the show we are watching is not just what the main characters are singing and speaking.  Having been in the ensemble of many high school, college and community theater musicals, I can honestly tell you my favorite part is taking my character(s) which will have next to zero back story in the book and create a unique entity.  This production had supporting and featured roles that amounted to an electric ensemble that was always present, always engaging.  From the show-stopping “Dark I Know Well” to the more subtle reprisals and choruses of songs, I can honestly say that each actor on stage shined in their own right without upstaging anyone else.  Not an easy feat to accomplish.

So beautiful singing, great movement, phenomenal lighting and praiseworthy acting amounted to a truly memorable experience that I will keep with me for always.  The biggest compliment I or anyone else in the theater world can give is expressing how much love I felt for a show that I normally despise.  Are there certain unequivocal faults in the book? Absolutely.  Does this production completely rise above and tell a better story than what is provided in the script?  Without a shadow of a doubt.  Am I extremely long-winded?  At times.  Should you see Spring Awakening at Cabaret Theatre?  Why haven’t you done so already?

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So there’s another glowing–nay, incandescent–review of Cabaret’s production of Spring Awakening! Reserve Reserve Reserve tickets now!

Or Matt’s gonna get you:

Say WHAT again!

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