Directed by Terry Martin
Music Direction - Mark Mullino
Choreography - John de los Santos
Set Design - Christopher Pickart
Lighting Design - Leann Burns
Costume Design - Michael A. Robinson
Sound Design - Curtis Craig
Stage Manager - Heidi Shen
Assistant Stage Manager - Ash Willeby
Vocal Arrangements - Annemarie Milazzo
Orchestrations - Duncan Sheik
String Orchestrations - Simon Hale
Wendla - Erica Harte
The Adult Women - Lulu Ward
Martha - Simone Gundy
Ilse - Kayla Carlyle
Anna - Molly Welch
Thea - Molly Franco
The Adult Men - Steven Pounders
Otto/Ulbrecht - Sam Swenson
Hanschen/Rupert - Matt Tolbert
Ernst/Reingold - Joshua Gonzales
Georg/Dieter - Clay Wheeler
Moritz - Adam Garst
Melchior - Jonathan W. Gilland
Boys Ensemble - Gregory Campos, Jacob Aaron Cullum, Jason Moody
Girls Ensemble - Juliette Talley, Ruby Westfall
Reviewed Performance 10/8/2011
Reviewed by Lyle Huchton, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
If I were to describe a play by its subject matter, would it be easy to try and guess the year in which it was written?
For example, if the production dealt with topics such as teen pregnancy, homosexuality, teen suicide, and child abuse, a pretty fair guess would be to think that the play was currently written for today's audience.
It would be a little alarming to find out that not only was a play with such subject matter written over one hundred years ago, but that it still could pack an emotional punch. A new musical version of that script, Spring Awakening, is playing now at WaterTower Theatre in Addison.
Spring Awakening was adapted from the 1891 play of the same name by German playwright Frank Wedekind. Also set in the late 19th century, it involved a group of adolescents who were realizing but not fully understanding the budding of their sexuality. With music by Duncan Sheik and book and lyrics by Steven Sater, Spring Awakening received eleven Tony Award nominations in 2007, winning eight including one for Best Musical.
It would seem like a bit of a risk to mount a musical that had already received so much critical and commercial success with its Broadway run and recent touring production. WaterTower Theatre's director Terry Martin's gamble paid off big by the selection of a strong ensemble cast, and with the support of an equally impressive design team.
The set design by Christopher Pickart consisted of one long, low, wood-planked platform that straightforwardly transformed from the school house floor to the loft in the barn. Up stage right was a grid with a spiral staircase that led down to the stage. On the opposite side there was a series of steps and platforms that headed up to a forced perspective doorway and window. I loved the look of this set and how it effortlessly changed into the various locations needed to carry out the action.
Helping to enhance the mood and movement of this production was lighting designer Leann Burns. At times she projected harsh angles on the playing area to indicate a room or a grave site. She then would flood the stage with moving projections of leaves delicately heightening the feel of the piece. With true understanding of her craft, Ms. Burns produced stunning and consistent design elements.
I knew it was not an easy task for costume designer Michael A. Robinson to transform a group of adults to look like characters almost half their real ages. By sticking to a strict color palate and not using too many layers, Mr. Robinson was able to make the actors look like the teenagers they were portraying. He also made use of what appeared to be a few vintage garments that helped define the time period.
With an ensemble cast that was so good together it would be hard to try and single out individual vocal performances. This cast rose to the occasion by handling Duncan Sheik's rock score with all the intensity and vibrancy in which it was written. Starting with the lyrical "Mother Who Bore Me" and moving on to the head banging "My Junk" and "Totally F***ed", they would surprise again in the end with a beautiful "The Song of Purple Summer".
Helping them along was the onstage band lead by music director Mark Mullino. It was so nice to hear a live band, not a track, with additional string instruments that included a violin and a viola. Although the band was onstage with the actors, never did it overpower the vocals.
John de los Santos' choreography concentrated on the rock-themes provided by the music. At times the fussy movements seemed to conflict with what was happening on stage, making some of the vocals within the numbers quite sloppy. A little creative editing would have helped a lot in these instances.
As the heady Melchior, Jonathan W. Gilland proved that too much knowledge is as harmful as not enough. Although his character is far the superior in intelligence he never slipped into arrogance or condescension.
When Erica Harte first appeared as Wendla standing in front of a mirror in her Victorian underwear, I thought there was no way she could pull off playing a 14 year-old girl because she looked slightly mature for the role. But she proved me wrong by incorporating a confused innocence to her character and sticking with it throughout the entire performance.
Adam Garst took on the role of the nervous and severe Mortiz. Although I liked the choices Mr. Garst made for his character, I felt he started too strong leaving little to build on. On the other hand he did manage to capture the extreme angst of Mortiz.
Other exceptional performances were Simone Gundy as Martha, Kayla Carlyle as the free-spirited Ilsa, Matt Tolbert as Hanschen, and Lulu Ward as Melchior's progressive-thinking Mother.
Musical theater has flourished this year in Dallas with extraordinary productions of Cabaret by The Dallas Theater Center and Next to Normal by Uptown Players. Now WaterTower Theatre can proudly add Spring Awakening to this exceptional list.
WaterTower Theatre, at The Addison Theatre Center
15650 Addison Road Addison, Texas 75001
Runs through October 23rd
Wednesdays and Thursdays @ 7:30pm, Fridays and Saturdays @ 8:00pm Sunday matinees @ 2:00pm
For ticket prices or more information please
call 972-450-6232 or go to www.watertowertheatre.org.