On the pages of Music Theatre International, the licensing and royalty agent for Spring Awakening, you see that the show is rolling out across the country after the national tour closed in May. You won’t likely see the show being performed at your local church basement anything soon however, upcoming dates of the show include regional theatres and colleges. You’ll have to settle for geeky college boys performing Bitch of Living on YouTube til then.
So how did a group of performers in Frederick, MD get the blessing to put on the show before every other amateur group in the country?
It’s all about who you know, and for Producer David Horch it was the Producer of the now-closed national tour. Horch was able to secure the rights to hold a number of performances in honor of Stephen A. Bomango, a leader in the local arts community who passed away in 2003. The proceeds from the performances of Spring Awakening will go towards the a scholarship fund in his name.
The production reunited family members and artists that have worked many productions with Bomango. Charlie Smith has been retired from theatre, but temporarily returned to direct the winner of 8 Tony Awards (including Best Musical). Smith set out to revision the show much like Bomango would do with his productions. Since Smith would return to writing after the show he told me he had, “nothing to lose.” From the perspective of having reviewed the show back in 2009 when it stopped at the Kennedy Center, I can say that Smith puts his mark on the show yet it’s core elements are still there for fans of the musical.
A light fog brewed in the lobby of the Frederick Cultural Arts Center and in the small blackbox theatre where the show is performed. You could say the fog drives home the sense of confusion that Wendla, Melchoir, and Moritz find themselves in- or that the fog simply brings out the sparse lighting. Unlike the show’s Broadway look, with exposed brick adorned with light fixtures, this production is less ornate, with a simple a lighting truss in the rear of the stage. This isn’t a show about flying flats and sets, instead the action is focused on the tweenage love between Wendla (Amy Easton) and Melchoir (Philip McLeod). Smith also pushes the envelope of the show’s themes of sexual frustration with a mid-show exposition that shows way more than the National tour dared to.
FYI – you’ve now been warned, this show typically comes with a Parental Advisory warning but in this case it is extremely appropriate. You will see nudity.
The two get tangled in a 19th century European private school romance. Before the days of sex education and films like Superbad, the their story represents the loss of innocence in a bygone era. The action is fast-paced, as much as you maybe enjoying the show you won’t find a chance to applaud in the first act until the intermission. This production doesn’t feature on-stage seating like the Kennedy Center production, but it’s not needed with actors and actresses strutting their stuff just inches away from the front row. If you aren’t a fan of actors singing in your lap do not sit front row center.
Spring Awakening is not all sunshine and roses, I am not a fan of Smith’s decision to re-stage my favorite number in the show, Bitch of Living with benches instead of chairs. Part of the energy of the number comes from the frustration contained in neat rows and I didn’t feel it in this case. Also the particular night I attended suffered a few microphone problems, a common hurdle for most community theatres. Horch told me after the show it’s been a challenge.
However I noticed tissues passed around amongst patrons towards the show’s emotional climax- a sign that in the end the show hit all the notes it had to hit.
If you are a Spring Awakening fan, take a trip up 270 to Frederick and witness a little Spring Awakening history.
playing through June 11th
Frederick Cultural Arts Center
15 West Patrick Street
Frederick, MD 21701