Posted on Oct 3, 2013
4 out of 5
The first time you experience a show, you hope that you can somehow recapture that experience again and again. Spring Awakening presented by The Barn Players is truly a gem of community theatre.
Under the direction of Eric Magnus, this show reached new conceptual heights. Magnus, while indeed taking the more conservative road due to the intimacy of the theater, still delivers a phenomenal look. Also Spring Awakening dives into some issues that are still very much taboo to talk about in modern society and all of these possible stumbling blocks were handled very professionally. The utilization of a thrust stage versus the usual proscenium stage of the Barn, was to
great avail. This really brought the audience into the action and gave easy visibility. His work with the lighting designer (Chuck Cline), scenic designer (Doug Schroeder), and props master (Meghan Newman) heightened the show through the utilization of back-lighting, practical props, and minimalist approach to scenery. The very naturalistic choreography by Guy Gardner was sharp and well executed and lent very easily with the overall action of the play.
The only critic I have of the directing, would be the utilization of an on stage ensemble. This is suggested in the script to use cast members dressed in street clothes that join in during the large group songs. Unfortunately this technique was far less powerful due to two points: 1. There was no surprise when these people started singing since they were the only ones sitting on stage. Asking people if they wanted to be seated onstage with them could counteract this downfall. 2. The ensemble (Adam Winney, Jessica Alcorn, Madison Dodd, Miles Wirth, Nikcoma Mahkewa, and Paris Naster), disguised as audience members, seemed quite impartial to the happenings onstage often times looking at the audience or just bored.
Technically speaking there were just a few points that were sub-par. The over use of fade-in and fade-out lighting in the middle of a song. It was done in such a way that while the actor was moving, he was almost in complete darkness as one light dimmed and the other was brought up. The sound setup in The Barn is also less than favorable. Many times in the show a microphone would begin to echo due to the configuration of the speakers in relation to the stage. The most interesting thing to happen technically speaking was the lack of stage lighting due to a suicidal squirrel who took out the transformer that powered the lighting system. This forced the first act to be performed with full house lights on, much to the angst of the actors.
The actors were, without a doubt, the strongest element of all. One actress in particular shined through, although not being a young adult, the Adult Female played by Cathy Wood was by far the most stunning character portrayed. Wood was required to play ever female adult character, 3 separate roles in all, all of which had their stark differences. Her male counterpart the Adult Male (Doug Dresslaer) also achieved well in his presentation of various parental and authoritative figures throughout the show. Through this collaboration, all adults portrayed were very believable and strong.
The young adult actors on the other hand had their strengths and weaknesses. The lead woman, Wendla (Maggie Gremminger), did a stand-up job of portraying such an innocent and benevolent character through her subtle use of childlike qualities. Her romantic interest, Melchior (Bobby Turnbough), was also a very dynamic character. The prospective that was brought to Melchior gave me a whole new side of the character that I have not seen in any performer in this role. Through his portrayal I began to see the disgust and regret Melchior begins to feel after his affair with Wendla. The third and final main character, Moritz (Keegan Rice), was the only main character that was completely static the entire time on stage. For the duration of the show, Moritz was an anxious and angry individual. More differing tactics would have juxtaposed to those quite well and made those choices even stronger, but instead Moritz was a fairly flat character.
The other nine supporting roles were also hit and miss. The top boy and girl from this category has to go to Martha (Emma Cook) and Georg (James Levy). Cook ruled over the audience during "The Dark I Know Well" joined by Ilse (Kristen Altoro) and together had me in tears by the conclusion. Levy had by far the most even voice among the entire cast and had the audience hypnotized during his vocal improvisations during "Touch Me". Otto (T.J. Chaffin) and Hanschen (Steven James) also get very high accommodations for their strong voices and character choices especially featured in "All That's Known" and "Totally F***ed". Ernst (Jake Leet) had one of the strongest maintained characters throughout the show. His utilization of a character voice and posture made him stand out. Unfortunately, his weak and pitchy falsetto was often hard to listen to, and is easily out-shined in "Touch Me" by Levy. Thea (Natalie Baughman) and Anna (Kelsie Schuman) both had the most scripted static characters and although when featured did take the stage quite easily, were forgettable when taken in comparison.
Last but not least is the orchestra. Led by pianist Kelsie Clark, the orchestra provided the proper backing for such a powerful show. The violin and viola parts were turned exquisitely although the cello was quite often out of tune. The only problem that arose with the pit being open was that the percussion was overpowering at times, especially during the more intimate songs.
All in all, this show will go on my list of great productions of the year and it was my pleasure to see it twice. The first act was even more powerful the second time.