REVIEW: "Spring Awakening"—A Marcus S. Daniel Production
Updated: Feb 28, 2021
"This Cult-Rock Musical is in Full Bloom with an Exceptional Cast!"
The daring new musical, “Spring Awakening,” has sprung once again in Southern California, and it rocked so hard it has taken Southern California by storm.
Streaming last night to a gaga online audience, the show presented an electric jolt of youthful angst and yearning just as it did when it revolutionized the usually staid genre of Broadway in 2006. To date, this musical may perhaps be the coolest one ever to have livestreamed into your mobile device of choice.
Producer and Director Marcus S. Daniel presented this audacious mash-up of 19th-century themes and cutting-edge alt-rock in its premiere last evening, February 26th at 5:30pm PST, that literally took our breath away from start to finish. Climactically, it represented a new, exciting, and evolving brand of virtual theater resulting in a much higher quality of final product – one that uses a new array of transitions, special effects, synchronizations and backgrounds – and one that ignites and inspires just like live theatre. The show has since been extended, due to public demand, until Sunday, February 28th at 7:00 pm PST/10 pm EST.
Frank Wedekind’s (the German playwright best known for the Alban Berg opera "Lulu") once-scandalous 1891 tragedy about adolescents awash in lust, fear and chaos is apparently still the height of hip 130 years later. The Tony-winning rock musical, “Spring Awakening,” featuring alluring melancholy music by the pop singer-songwriter Duncan Sheik along with book and lyrics by Steven Sate, is worshipped everywhere by flocks of teens and adults alike – we’ll call them the “Guilty Ones” – many of whom were commenting like maniacs throughout the free YouTube viewing.
But Mr. Sheik and Mr. Sater have done more than author the show. They have transposed Wedekind's fragmented meditation on the pleasures and dangers of hormonal efflorescence to all of the anachronistic souls of would-be rock 'n' roll stars, dreamers and screamers, who even today are channeling the slashing torments of teendom.
This VIRTUAL production features a diverse cast and crew from across the country, including Katy Jane Harvey (International Tour – “Autant en emporte le vent,” “Les Miserables”) as Wendla; Regan Carrington (“Cindy and the Discoball,” “All Shook Up”) as the Adult Woman; Elizabeth Adabale (Nat’l Tour – “The Color Purple,” “Into The Woods”) as Martha; Alison Anaya (“West Side Story,” “Little Women”) as Ilse; Ashley Arlene Nelson (“Lysistrata Jones,” “A Chorus Line”) as Thea; Amy Melendrez (“The Séance,” “Accidental Joy”) as Anna; Dayle Vander Sande (“Clue,” “Elf: The Musical”) as the Adult Man; Dominic Pecikonis (Nat’l Tour – “SPAMILTON: An American Parody,” “Swimming While Drowning”) as Otto; KD Stevens (Nat’l Tour – “Rent,” “Big Bang Theory Parody”) as Georg; Eric Stanton Betts (Nat’l Tours – “Kinky Boots,” “Evita”) as Hanschen; Gilberto Saenz (“Julius Caesar,” “West Side Story”) as Ernst; Liam Collins (“The Wild Party,” “Pippin”) as Moritz; and Marcus S. Daniel (Ovation Award – “The Boy from Oz,” “Bright is the Ring of Words”) as Melchior.
The Assistant Director is Romel De Silva (Paramount Network's “Heathers”); Musical Director is Heather Edwards (Co- Founder/CEO/Lead Musical Director - “AhHa!Broadway Inc.”); Casting is by Lindsay Brooks CSA (“The Office! A Musical Parody”); Sound Editor is Pieter Orlandini (“25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”); Video Editor is Shara Abvabi (Nat’l Tour – “Evita”); Producer/Director is Marcus S. Daniel; Producers include Terri Daniel, EJ Daniel, Tami Collins, Ramsey Merritt; Associate Producers are Marisa Jones, Lenore Romney, Ben Gromis; Promotional Materials by Kelly Lester; Promotional Photography is by Robert Ladd.
“Spring Awakening” revolves around a chorus of teenagers, with a particular focus on three individuals: Melchior, a defiant young intellectual (Marcus S. Daniel); the naive but curious Wendla (Katy Jane Harvey); and the struggling student Moritz (Liam Collins). The parents’ attempts to stifle not just their children’s sexual expression and creative thinking, but any knowledge of the realities of adulthood, have dire consequences. The atmosphere of hope and rebellion that pervades act one finally descends into tragedy when act two comes around.
Much has been made of the risque bits in “Spring Awakening,” in which bodies as well as hearts are sometimes laid bare. Well, yes...one thing you can't deny - the show is definitely bold. There's certainly plenty of racy carnal activity going on.
In fact, hormones are the keys that unlock Melchior’s desire to defy the status quo. He’s a heroic everyman, a star pupil beloved by all, and yet he senses that something is awry with a world that would torment his unruly-haired chum Moritz (Mr. Collins) for being a misfit, and belittle the innocent Wendla (the luminous Ms. Harvey) and the bohemian Ilse (the formidable Ms. Anaya) just for being girls. Another annoyance is the hierarchy of teachers and parents (all resiliently played by Regan Carrington and Dayle Vander Sande), who would rather spoon-feed dogma than allow a new generation its doubts.
As the story progresses, there are blooming romances, tons of teen rebellion against society in general, and even the delicate subjects of teen suicide, incest and molestation. All of this is set against Sheik’s incandescent driving rock score, who some may remember for his 90s hit, “Barely Breathing.”
Depicting adolescent sexuality through song, including rape, masturbation and homosexuality, the show explores the confusion and desperation that ensues when the onrushing tide of hormones meets the ignorance of children raised by parents too prudish to discuss those subjects at home. Two of the three lead characters are sacrificed on the altar of propriety: one tormented by shame over sexual fantasies and bad grades, the other, a girlfriend, the victim of a botched abortion. Drugs, of a non-recreational kind, cause the young woman's death in the play, although it is left vague in the musical.
Marcus S. Daniel gives a rock-star performance as Melchior. His charisma is on full display during the fierce anthem, “Totally Fucked,” in which, amidst a chorus of his peers, he realizes he’s backed himself into a corner. Director Daniel also offers a bittersweet, eulogistic, “Left Behind,” an ode to a fallen friend, making every moment ring out with absolute clarity.
But the heart of “Spring Awakening” lies with Moritz, a fellow student struggling with grades while tackling the onset of puberty, and Liam Collins brings a punk sensibility to the number, “And Then There Were None.” Mr. Collins navigates Moritz's journey from goofiness to torment and tragedy most convincingly.
Other standouts include Martha (Ms. Adabale) and Ilse (Ms. Anaya) who are responsible for one of the show’s most chilling scenes, the moody duet “The Dark I Know Well,” during which each confesses the same terrible secret. It does get the adrenaline pumping, no question.
From abortion to incest to suicide, “Spring Awakening” doesn’t shy away from heavy, edgy themes. The show closes with “The Song of Purple Summer,” a beautiful, soaring ballad that presents the imagery of springtime and new beginnings (“…the fences sway, the porches swing, the clouds begin to thunder, crickets wander, murmuring”). In the show, the song feels like it comes out of nowhere, tacked on after the story has wrapped up one depressing turn after another. But it does offer an optimistic sense that despite all that’s transpired, maybe, just maybe, the kids are going to be all right.
WHERE TO WATCH (YouTube): https://youtu.be/OErzlPFRkMQ
To help support this production, please go to: https://gofund.me/35cd8e4a
Arts & Entertainment Reviewer
The Show Report