This review of the musical Spring Awakening performed at the Cultural Arts Playhouse was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 1 (2011) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
Cultural Arts Playhouse (625 Old Country Road, Plainview, NY)
Spring Awakening is a musical adaptation of the controversial 1892 German play of the same name written by Frank Wedekind. It features music by Duncan Sheik and a book and lyrics by Steven Sater. It is set in late-19th century Germany and involves teenage characters with names like Melchior, Moritz, Wendla, Ilse, Georg, Martha, Hanschen, Anna, Ernst, Thea and Otto. These teenagers, while struggling to find their way in an ordered, religious, puritanical society, face many challenges. Along the way, they deal with issues such as sexually explicit dreams, masturbation, bullying, teenage sex, pregnancy, abortion, incest, suicide, child abuse, domination, homosexuality and ultimately, death.
The good news about this production is the talent of the performers. Jesse Pimpinella was very charismatic as Melchior Gabor and Ashley Nicastro was excellent as the unbelievably naive Wendla Bergman. Mike Visconti was surprisingly powerful as Moritz Stiefel. The actor who caught my eye was Steven Matykiewicz, who played Ernst. His stage presence, acting talent and singing voice indicate to me that Mr. Matykiewicz is destined to play the lead in future productions. Also worthy of mention is Kevin Sweeney, who played the homosexual Hanschen. He was very believable in the part.
As for the musical itself, I was not impressed. The songs were not memorable and the only one that caught my attention, for a minute or two, was "Totally Fucked". The story line was extremely thin and there was little character development, which resulted in my inability to connect with any of the characters on more than a superficial level. Because of the many difficult topics addressed, there exists the potential to re-write the book to enable us to feel more deeply about each of the characters' dilemmas but as the book exists now that is all but impossible.
The Cultural Arts Playhouse is a small, comfortable theater with a friendly staff. Patrons are seated on a priority basis depending upon who purchases their tickets first. The set was far from elaborate but I understand this is typical for productions of this musical. I don't know if the theater has a Sound Engineer but on this particular evening, there were problems with the sound system that were very distracting and not corrected during intermission. Nevertheless, I will return to see future productions at the Cultural Arts Playhouse (http://www.culturalartsplayhouse.com/).