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Maryland performances including Theater, plays, ballet and opera

Review: "Spring Awakening" at The Keegan Theatre

Spring-awakening-at-Keegan-TheatreTeens struggle to cope with "this mess of life" in Sater and Sheik's rock musical "Spring Awakening." Mark A. Rhea and Susan Marie Rhea direct a young cast who bring this gritty musical to life at The Keegan Theatre.

"Spring Awakening," the musical adaptation of Frank Wedekind's 1891 play of the same, burst onto Broadway in 2006 with the intent to modernize the original play, while holding on to the themes of budding sexuality and questioning authority. Sater and Sheik's lyrics and orchestration range from upbeat rock pieces about teenage desires to dark ballads of mourning. Set in late-nineteenth century Germany, the musical centers around three teenagers, each with a different grasp of how their lives are changing.

Melchior Gabor, played by Vincent Kempski, is a headstrong young man who is one of the only youths in his town that understands the corruption of society and wishes to challenge it. Wendla Bergmann, played by Ali Hoxie, is Melchior's childhood friend and love interest, who wants to know what the changes her body is going through mean. Moritz Stiefel, played by Paul Scanlan, is Melchior's best friend who is plagued by desires that he does not yet understand. Along with their classmates, these characters explore their own (and each other's) bodies in this dark musical.

With a cast made up almost entirely of college students and recent graduates, there is no lack of youthful energy on stage. Kempski's Melchior is as reserved as he is passionate, introverted as well as charismatic. Audiences can sympathize with him because as much as he keeps bottled up inside, his outbursts of emotion let you in on who this young man really is. The performance of Hoxie captures Wendla's childish curiosity while never seeming annoyingly ignorant. Hoxie makes the character a dreamer, not content with what little she knows. It is Scanlan's performance as Moritz that makes this musical truly great, as the young vocal powerhouse sings every song as if it was his last and creates a character that is hauntingly deranged as he struggles to deal with life and all of its many troubles.

The rest of the cast offer wonderful performances, both from an acting and singing standpoint. Each of the teenage characters is believable and real, while the adults are played as cruel stereotypes of authority figures.

Featuring stellar lighting design by Allan Sean Weeks and under the musical direction of Jake Null, audiences are treated to a concert-esque experience during musical numbers, full of colorful, spinning lights and rock and roll guitar chord and drum beats.

Each aspect of "Spring Awakening" comes together beautifully to create a performance that will have audiences enthralled as the story unfolds onstage, and leave them singing the show's songs long after the final bows.

"Spring Awakening" runs through July 18, 2012 (Thurs-Sun only), at The Keegan Theatre, Washington D.C. This show features language and themes that may be inappropriate for children. The performance runs approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes with a 15 minute intermission. Tickets available at keegantheatre.com.

Mike Liberto is a drama major/English minor at Washington College, Chestertown, MD. When not acting, singing, or reading, Mike enjoys puppies, his girlfriend, and video games.

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