Let me begin this review by saying that if you have never seen a performance of Spring Awakening then you should go and see this show. It is a really, really good musical, but unfortunately, this particular production is quite stale.
The pace of the performance is quick, which works really well in the first half and keeps the audience engaged, but it’s too much in Act Two. The second half of the show is a series of intense emotional scenes and the power of these scenes is lost in the pace of the show. For people unfamiliar with the plot, it becomes very difficult to register what is happening. It feels like the director (Rebecca Vaa) is avoiding properly dealing with the difficult scenes, which leaves the ending somewhat flat.
However, many of the musical numbers are infused with energy. My favourites are ‘The Dark I Know Well’, sung by Amy Carmichael, and ‘My Junk’, a full cast ensemble. There is some really effective use of levels and groupings, but the group work is weakened by the choreography, from Megan Thorpe. A lot of the choreography is very simplistic and synchronised. At several points in the show, the actors line up at the front of the stage which feels both overwhelming and boring.
This quite generic choreography undermines the singing, which is generally good. A particularly good singer is Joanna Clarke who plays Wendla,and who opens the show with ‘Mama Who Bore Me’, immediately engaging the audience. The quality of acting within her songs is really admirable and reflects a genuine talent for musical theatre rather than being both a singer and an actor.
One really outstanding aspect of the show is the set design, from Jack Parham. There are angular raised platforms on the stage, hanging light bulbs and a modern tree that creates a minimalistic and fresh tone for the show. It’s a shame that the performance itself isn’t quite as fresh.