Theatre Review: ‘Spring Awakening’ by MusicalFare Theatre at Shea’s 710 Theatre

The cast of “Spring Awakening” by MusicalFare Theatre at Shea’s 710 Theatre.

Last month, students who survived the gruesome shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida began demanding change in gun control legislation by holding rallies, planning walkouts to call for legislative action and meeting with the president.  Many supporters have praised them for standing up for the cause and lauding their fearlessness to call out the adults who have neglected to protect them, similar to the characters some of them had been cast to portray in the school’s production of “Spring Awakening.”

With timeliness on its side, MusicalFare opened its production of the revolutionary 2006 musical Thursday evening at Shea’s 710 Theatre, where it was met with frequent cheers and a deserved standing ovation.

. . .the cast passionately performs a controversial, heart-wrenching and vibrant show you’d be sorry to miss.

Director Randall Kramer has assembled a strong group of mostly returning MusicalFare players to perform Duncan Sheik’s musical based on the play by Frank Wedekind.

In 1891 Germany, a group of students including the sheltered Wendla, headstrong Melchior and anxious Moritz, all look to each other for guidance while struggling to adapt to society’s strict expectations and their parents’ and teachers’ views on the world. Sheik’s music is emotional and intoxicating under Allan Paglia’s direction and serves as the soundtrack to a tale of loss, love, youth and revolution.

Leah Berst and Nick Stevens lead the cast as Wendla and Melchior, respectively. Their vocals are impressively on point and they believably portray the accurate confusion, awkwardness and intensity of young love.

Arianne Davidow is Ilse, a mysterious, gentle character who has recently moved to an artist’s colony after being kicked out from her abusive household. Davidow is a vocal powerhouse and shines brightest when interacting with her old, troubled friend Moritz, played by Patrick Cameron. Cameron’s strength lies in his portrayal of Moritz’s crippling frustration at feeling like a failure. While he occasionally comes off so erratic that his words get lost, his intensity is necessary to showcase his troubling journey.

Lisa Vitrano and Jacob Albarella stand out in some of the more arguably challenging roles – all of the adult parts. Tasked with portraying teachers, various parents and other members of society with barely any costume changes, they both expertly navigate between characters adopting distinct vocal styles and pitches.

Kramer’s staging frequently brought the cast into the aisles and, mixed with Doug Weyand’s precise, passionate choreography, made for an immersive and intimate experience throughout the entire show. “Spring Awakening” is not meant to be performed far away beyond a fourth wall, and Musicalfare’s use of the space is excellent.

Even with incredible staging, what quadruples the production quality is Chris Cavanagh’s lighting and sound design. Bursting with color, his light plot was a character in itself and enhanced each song perfectly, shining especially during the rock numbers.

There were a few vocal moments that were lost, perhaps to an intense acting moment or opening night kinks. Chris Schenk’s industrial set of moving pieces, while efficient, had room for improvement, lacking storytelling details other than a sign during scenes at the school.

Regardless of the production’s few flaws, the story of “Spring Awakening” is too important to miss. Led by the strong quartet of Berst, Cameron, Davidow and Stevens, the cast passionately performs a controversial, heart-wrenching and vibrant show you’d be sorry to miss.

Running Time: Approximately 2 hours with one 15 minute intermission.

“Spring Awakening” plays through March 18, 2018, is produced by MusicalFare Theatre and is presented at Shea’s 710 Theatre. For more information, click here.