[Review] ‘Spring Awakening’ at Actor’s Express is devastating, beautiful

In short, “Spring Awakening” is about coming of age in puritanical 1890s Germany. The boys are voracious to express their inexplicable sexual urges, the girls are starting to notice, and the adults are too afraid — and religious — to get involved.

It is a tragedy in he truest sense of the word.

Wendla, played in the local production by Kylie Brown, sets the tone from the start with a vulnerable moment on stage singing about how ill-equipped she is to deal with life’s biggest questions, and her burgeoning teenage body.

She and her friends have just started dishing about the boys in school, most notably the handsome, free-thinking and positively “radical” Melchior (Jordan Craig) and his unlikely friend Moritz (Greg Bosworth), who is worried his wet dreams are a sign of madness.

Without ruining your own “Awakening,” the consequences of mixing sexual exploration and naiveté in a no-questions-asked conservative regime are powerful and just as relevant now as they were when Frank Wedekind wrote the play upon which the musical is based.

In 1892.

It’s some kind of Gothic after-school special period piece with bits of rock and roll storytelling injecting pace and vigor courtesy Sheik’s almost radio-friendly soundtrack with concise lyrics and straight-forward book by Steven Sater.

Craig’s Melchior was the most powerful individual performance, but more importantly, the group’s collective energy and adequate talent hold the show together.

Particularly during Act II’s “Totally Fucked,” the cast lets go, and their energy is contagious. It was a much-needed reprieve from the dramatic darkness that is more indicative of the show’s tone.

Other notables include LaLa Cochran, who plays all of the adult women in the show, and Jordan Harris as the scene-stealing Hanschen/Rupert and dead wringer for a young Johnny Depp. He is thankfully a part of the show’s brief gay subplot, which is respectfully treated and was in fact a part of Wedekind’s original work.

Actor’s Express’s production was stripped down, even compared to the show’s original art direction, but the costuming was particularly successful in illustrating the show’s intent to be specifically vintage, but at the same time modern.

The show’s most glaring issue is more technical than anything. Whether it’s the volume of the band or underutilized microphones, it was difficult to hear the lyrics sung by most of performers, particularly during the show’s most kinetic rock tracks.

That said, the entirety of the production was absolutely powerful. It was devastating in the most beautiful ways and the material—the true gem of this particular theatrical experience—was done justice.

‘Spring Awakening’
Through Oct. 1
Actor’s Express
887 W. Marietta St.
Suite J-107
Atlanta, GA 30318

Photo: The cast of ‘Spring Awakening’ (Photo by Jen Hofstetter Photography)