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Actors shine in ‘Spring Awakening’

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Published: Thu, November 16, 2017 @ 12:05 a.m.




“Spring Awakening,” the musical by Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik, rocked Broadway when it opened in 2006. It had a spectacular young cast, innovative music, poetic lyrics and energetic, modern choreography – all of which were used to present dark and serious themes.

Though it is a thoroughly modern musical, “Spring Awakening” is set more than 100 years ago and is based on the 1891 play by Frank Wedekind. However, the story and its themes are timeless.

The show centers on a group of friends, all about 14 or 15, as they begin to “awaken” and wonder about their own sexuality and the world around them. As in any coming-of-age story, the conflict arises from the older generation.

The original production earned eight Tony awards and launched the careers of Lea Michele (“Glee”) and Jonathan Goff (“Frozen,” “Hamilton”).

It also shook many theater-goers to their cores and inspired countless reproductions around the country.

Little more than 10 years later, “Spring Awakening” is fairly famous among the theater crowd. I can only imagine how thrilled the students in Youngstown State University’s theater program were when they heard it was to be their fall musical. As a theater patron, I was pretty thrilled to see it.

University Theater’s production does not disappoint. Every member of the cast gives a strong performance and sings flawlessly, each adding to the show’s power.

As lead characters, Mason Edmunds and Daniel Navabi are perfect foils. Edmunds’ Melchoir is confident and self-assured, while Navabi’s Moritz is full of angst and agitation.

All of the “boys” shined in their performances, including Ben Mowrer (Hanshen), Mac Callahan (Ernst), Wesley Miller (Georg), Stefon Funderburke (Otto), DJ Davis and Tristan Kile,

Leah Tekac plays main character Wendla with perfect sweetness and innocence. Jessica Hirsh (Ilse) and Emily Bagale (Martha) gave beautiful, moving performances. Also standing out were Angelique Tanner (Thea), AnnMarie Lowerre (Anna) and Ciara Rosario, Mia Colon and Rosie Bresson, as the girls chorus.

Completing the cast were Nathan Wagner and Brooke Nobbs, playing every adult role with variety.

The set design by Todd Dicken and director C. Austin Hill is simple and stark, much like the lives of the characters. Rachael Palermo’s choreography is modern and emotional. Katherine Garlick’s costume design feels both old and new; the fabrics and clothing looked old-fashioned, but with Garlick’s styling and details, the cast easily could be seen in a modern fashion magazine.

“Spring Awakening” continues Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at Ford Theater in Bliss Hall on Wick Avenue on the YSU campus. For reservations, call 330-941-3105, or go to ysu.tix.com.

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