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South East
posted/updated: 07 May 2013 - edit review / upload photos
Spring Awakening - The Musical
Books and Lyrics by Steven Sater, Music by Duncan Sheik, Based on the Original Play by Frank Wedekind
society/company: Simply Theatre (directory)
performance date: 02 May 2013
venue: Rhoda McGaw theatre, Woking
reviewer/s: James Nicholls (Independent review)


A rock musical based on a German play written in the 1800’s is hardly your usual setting for a West End hit. However, since its conception in the late 1990s, Spring Awakening has delighted and shocked its audiences with its story of rape, abortion, homosexuality and child abuse. This daring production performed by the relatively young cast of Simply Theatre was a shot in the arm for the Rhoda McGaw, a community venue which hosts the annual drama festival and operatic societies.
Stand out performances came from the production’s leads Hannah Bracher as daring and inquisitive Wendla and Sam Thomas who played Melchior. Bracher was strong vocally and in presence as a young teenager fighting an attraction and yearning to find out more about her body and feelings. Sam Thomas was intelligent and assured as Melchior who managed to showcase commanding and vulnerable sides to his character both emotionally and vocally. Together, their performances bought act one to a climactic and powerful end.

It was the boys really who stole the show with Mortiz played by Jamie Wilson proving to be a complex character with genuine depth. Wilson managed to keep us laughing with his struggles and then feel his pain by the end. His rough and rocky vocal complimented his character and the others around him giving the production yet another quirky edge over its rival shows. His duet with Ilse (Ellie Devonshire) was brilliant.

Other notable highlights included David Oliver’s portrayal of Hanschen – the young, confident gay character who captivated the audience with his wooing of Ernst (Matt Hough) in act two. Although we could have spotted Hanschen’s motives a mile off, the comedy and tension kept the audience in on the joke and concluded in one of many tender moments of the show. Oliver brave performance also included him performing a solo sex act amidst a song and dance number. Few performers would be able to keep our attention and focus in such a way.

The real strength and highlight of this production was the manner in which the company worked together. This was a show that really felt like a group effort with a strong sense of collaboration and that the actors and audience were going on the journey together. Not one performer was miscast or looked out of place and no one number failed to engage with the packed Rhoda McGaw theatre. The music was interesting, each number different and gave us many layers of sounds. The ensemble worked hard to keep telling the story and vocally was some of the best group sounds ever heard. The real strength and highlight of this production was the manner in which the company worked together. This was a show that really felt like a group effort with a strong sense of collaboration and that the actors and audience were going on the journey together. Not one performer was miscast or looked out of place and no one number failed to engage with the packed Rhoda McGaw theatre. The music was interesting, each number different and gave us many layers of sounds. The ensemble worked hard to keep telling the story and vocally was some of the best group sounds ever heard.

Technically the production was rich but simple, utilising engaging and creatively shot projections and video content. Perhaps the only mis-step in the production was during “Totally Fucked” in which a fast paced video played. With the cast and band doing enough to keep the momentum and pace of the show up, the video was a touch overwhelming and confusing considering it displayed modern clips and references in an otherwise time-sensitive piece. Sometimes less is more, and the encore of the number proved this.

This was a minor gripe in a production that excelled across the board. While the story and message may not pack the same punch in our socially advanced times where kids seem to know too much, Spring Awakening triumphed on every level.



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