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REVIEW: The Company Theatre of Norwell rouses a powerful 'Spring Awakening'

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Spring Awakening

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Writer and educator Max Lerner once observed, “The core in the process of growing up is when you discover the core of strength within you that survives all hurt.”

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The Company Theatre of Norwell encapsulates this profound notion with the premiere of a daring, powerful, coming of age musical, ‘Spring Awakening’ continuing its run through Sunday, March 2. With lyrics by Stephen Sater, music by Duncan Sheik, and based on a play by Frank Wedekind, ‘Spring Awakening’ takes an unflinching look at teens coming of age and experiencing a whirlwind of emotions in an oppressive 19th century Germany. With songs ranging from tender to intense through its folk pop-rock musical vibe with a band that sits right onstage, this Tony award-winning production tells a moving story about the gray divide between the head and the heart.

Although the boys wear uniforms and the girls dress in modest, traditional dresses, these teens yearn to discover life without being under authority’s thumb. Hope takes the form in Wendla, played with wide-eyed optimism and a rich, impressively soulful voice by Jessy Rowe. Jessy’s sweet, shy smile and unassuming actions take center stage in this unconventional love story. Melchior, portrayed by Mickey White, is a pensive, charismatic student who longs for what most teens desire, to have the freedom to live the way he wants.

Caitlin Ford gives a compelling, bold performance as seemingly free spirited Ilse while Christopher Spencer is a blend of angst, anger, and compassion as Moritz. A highlight is their stirring rendition of ‘Don’t Do Sadness/Blue Wind,’ their quiet actions betraying much more than in the song’s lyrics.

The adults play distinct, multiple roles and Karen Wadland is remarkable as a disciplinarian, overwrought parent, and a saucy piano teacher. She works well with Christopher Crossen-Sills, who portrays multiple adult male roles. While this casting could be confusing, both actors show exceptional range and portray concern as skillfully as deceit.

From the first delicate acoustic chords, it was easy to tell that ‘Spring Awakening’ would be like nothing that Company Theatre has ever done before. As this show explores the suppressive rules of adult society verses teens yearning to be heard, the soundtrack explores a wide range of emotions. From the production’s first delicate acoustic chords to a pulsing, raw, rock beat, this soundtrack and this band cannot be defined to just one genre. The weaving of stringed accompaniment at times harkens to familiar folk rhythms such as in the show, ‘Once,’ while other songs such as ‘The Bitch of Living’ has a renegade feel like in Green Day’s musical, ‘American Idiot.’

The stage has a dimly lit, rustic, gothic feel as angelic artwork hangs on brick walls surrounding the stage, as the live band sits against it. Scenes transform in an imaginative way, as a simple, traditional classroom is transformed into moonlit woods with branches descending over the stage, and soft lamps radiate like stars.

The show explores mature and dark themes and is not recommended for children. See this gripping production of ‘Spring Awakening’ in its final weekend through Sunday, March 2 at the Company Theatre of Norwell, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts. Click here for tickets, call the box office at 1-781-871-2797, and visit www.companytheatre.com for more information.

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