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Spring Awakening review at Lyric Hammersmith London

David Farr ends his tenure as artistic director of Lyric Hammersmith, noted for its edgy experimentation and wholesale reinventions of the classics, by importing this superb and sensational musical makeover of Frank Wedekind’s forever-controversial 1891 play Spring Awakening from New York.

Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater’s show premiered at off-Broadway’s Atlantic Theatre Company in 2006 and quickly transferred to Broadway, becoming a eight-times Tony winning hit the following year.

The bold and continually bracing thing about the show is how brilliantly it combines faithfully reproducing the time and spirit of the play with a vibrant contemporary rock score that is utterly of today. The result is a jolting, jagged exploration of a coming of age story, telling of emerging adolescent sexualities in its various guises – from masturbation and homosexuality to sadomasochism and unwanted pregnancy.

Not since Jerry Springer – the Opera radically married a form of high art (with its seriously operatic score) to illuminate a critique of modern trash TV has a new musical exploded with such cunning contrasts. And director Michael Mayer, giving us an exact reproduction of his original New York staging, complete with an onstage audience seated among the actors, brings them to the fore with a cast which positively bursts with vigour.

Charlotte Wakefield and Aneurin Barnard, both making their professional debuts here (as are many of the company), are hauntingly committed as the central couple, Wendla and Melchior, whose fateful romance the play so arrestingly charts. But then the entire youthful company – joined by Sian Thomas and Richard Cordery in the adult roles – drive it with passion and power. Everything in the staging – from Bill T Jones’ quirky choreography to Kevin Adams’ neon lighting show – contribute to making this a show quite unlike any other. It demands to be seen, and it must surely transfer to the West End, where its originality and daring will not only stand it out from the crowds, but deserves to draw them, too.

Production Information

Lyric Hammersmith, London, January 23 -March 14

Author
Frank Wedekind
Director
Michael Mayer
Producer
Lyric Hammersmith
Cast includes
Charlotte Wakefield, Aneurin Barnard, Sian Thomas, Richard Cordery
Running time
2hrs 30mins

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