Antique story reflects current societal’s ongoing conflicts

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By Bob Evans

A story written in the 1890s with newly added alternative rock music focuses on the human experience as adolescents face oncoming body and mental changes as they mature to young adults in a society where they find themselves unsure and ill-equipped to face their destinies.

“Spring Awakening,” produced by Home Grown Theater and performing at one of the smaller venues in the Musical Theater Heritage Theatre at Crown Canter. The show displays the struggle of teenagers in a strict, controlled German society and contrasts that with current realities. Amazingly, not a lot has changed.

This new rendition of the musical drama, shows the stress to success or face disapproval, teen pregnancy, abortion, child abuse (physical and sexual), suicide, expulsion, reform school (currently light-jail terms and incarceration), sexual desire, masturbation, bullying, taunting, peer pressure, and shame….among others. Trust me, it’s a downer of a theme. Yet, with the addition of modern rock-music and good story-telling, the show works and grabbed eight Tony Awards and Olivier Awards when produced for the major stages on Broadway and in London’s West End.

By having the actors perform the music, live, on-stage as they sing/dance/act through this piece provides a unique theater experience for those who attend. This reviewer seldom views such a production where the music integrates completely onto the stage, other than “Once” a small, intimate musical set in a Dublin pub.

Watching the young cast perform sends a strong message that Kansas City continues to take young talent, giving them opportunities and vehicles for growth as artists. “Spring Awakening” needs a younger cast to establish believability, and this production delivers with a strong cast and a unique approach to the material.

Strong performances come from the three leads, Scott Michael Salem, Thomas Delgado, and Lily Nichols. The love story and sexual attraction between Wendia and Melchoir becomes the main story line, while the social pressure on the not-so-educationally skilled Moritz provides the other main story-line. Nichols sings the part of Wendla Bergmann with beautiful voice and innocence. Salem plays Melchoir Gabor, Wendia’s love interest. He sings, acts, dances, as well as strapping on a guitar for several numbers. Delgado portrays the conflicted Moritz Stiefel who can’t seem to find success or support at school or home.

Technical issues distracted from the overall theater experience because some microphones were not working, sometimes the music drowned out the dialogue and lyrics, and a few light cues were slightly off. Those can be corrected as the show fine-tunes for the upcoming weekend performances.

Tags: Musical Theater Heritage at Crown Center, “Spring Awakening”, Home Grown Theater, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Theater, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment, Kansas City Music

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