Four lonely chords ring out from an acoustic guitar as a gentle light re-illuminates the stage, immediately followed by a mournful cello crying. “Were you really so blind and unkind to him?” One by one, a flower is dropped in the middle of the stage. Hanschen (Devon Stone) furiously swings his stiff arm and sends a look of scorn and blame to the father before releasing his flower. Ilse (Courtney Markowitz) shuffles heavily up to the platform, never lifting her head. She looks at the flowers as though she is responsible for them being there. Slowly, she crouches down to their level and rests her flower on top of the others, grazing her hand across the platform as she stands back up. The very last person with a flower is the father. He holds out his arm to drop it but simply cannot. He looses all the composure he was so desperately clinging to and crumples to the ground with heavy sobs, mourning the loss of his son. Melchior (Christopher Wood) sings “All things he ever did are left behind.”
Every one of these extreme emotions is familiar to those of us who have lost someone who was a part of our lives. This scene in Spring Awakening performed as part of the Concert Series in Jesse Hall Tuesday night was all too familiar. One year ago to that performance, someone very close to me died in the very same way that Moritz dies in the play, violently and by choice. One year ago to the day, I was feeling everything those characters were feeling at Moritz’s funeral.
Spring Awakening is a powerful pop-rock musical with the ability to take the challenges teenagers face in 1890s Germany and through modern music and a powerfully talented cast of young actors, make them relevant. An utter lack of communication with adults seems to be the cause of their tragedies. The only time characters are totally honest is when they bring out the stick microphones. The audience is then invited into the rock concert going on in these teenagers heads. The end of the song “Totally Fucked,” the entire cast runs and jumps around the stage, flipping off the adult characters and head-banging into oblivion, something we all imagine doing when being cornered by someone.
Coby Getzug seamlessly portrayed the transformation of Moritz from distracted to desperate. During the first act, Getzug’s jerky movements across stage make Moritz seem just like any other awkward teenager trying to ignore his wet dreams so that he can pass his exams. We don’t learn until “And Then There Were None” how desperate and alone Moritz actually is. Getzug’s voice, angry and frenzied, is his final plea for help. Just when Moritz has made up his mind that he has nothing left to live for, he runs into his old friend Ilse played by the graceful and heartbreaking Courtney Markowitz. Both of these characters were crying out for help to each other but neither could help the other out of their darkness. “Don’t Do Sadness/Blue Wind” sang across the stage from each other, facing away from each other was a gut-wrenching honest connection between two characters.
Melchior, played by the brooding, charismatic Christopher Wood, arguably suffers the most loss in the play. In one of the final scenes, Melchior realizes that despite all that he has lost, there is a reason for him to continue on. Wood’s crystal clear voice rings in the souls of all of us who have felt left behind. “They walk with my heart- I’ll never let them go.”
Book and Lyrics by Steven Sater; Music by Duncan Sheik; Based on the play by Frank Wedekind; Directed by Lucy Skilbeck; Music Director/Conductor – Kasey RT Graham; Scenic Design by Christine Jones; Costume Design by Susan Hilferty; Lighting Design by Kevin Adams; Sound Design by Brian Ronan; Orchestrations by Duncan Sheik; Vocal Arrangements by AnnMarie Milazzo; String Orchestrations by Simon Hale; Musical Supervision by Jodie Moore; Production Management by Hector Guivas; Company Management by Landon Shaw; Stage Manager – Stacy Taylor; Executive Producer – Kary M. Walker; Presented by NETworks at Jesse Auditorium WITH: Elizabeth Judd (Wendla), Sarah Kleeman (The Adult Women), Aliya Bowles (Martha), Courtney Markowitz (Ilse), Rachel Geisler (Anna), Emily Mest (Thea), Mark Poppleton (The Adult Men), George E. Salazar (Otto), Devon Stone (Hanschen), Daniel Plimpton (Ernst), Jim Hogan (Georg), Coby Getzug (Moritz), Christopher Wood (Melchior), Jamie Rea Billings, Erin Burniston, William J. Lewis, Michael Linden, Jeff Ostermueller (Ensemble)