When Vocal Miscellany took on the task of producing Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater’s “Spring Awakening,” it was faced with the task of putting on a show beloved and well-known by the current student generation.
With that in mind, director Melanie Blood, professor of English and theatre, and her cast have put together a performance that pays respect to what we love about the original show while still maintaining a distinct sense of individuality.
Based on the 1906 play by Frank Wedekind, “Spring Awakening” is a rock musical about a group of teenagers in late 19th-century Germany struggling to reconcile their growing sexual urges with the repressive nature of their society.
The audience was first introduced to Wendla, a curious 14-year-old girl, played by junior Alexandra Mendes. In a role often burdened by the shadow of Lea Michele’s original interpretation, Mendes succeeds at making Wendla entirely her own, carrying her sexual ignorance with weary bitterness. This is not the wide-eyed innocent who believes in the stork, but a young woman who knows she is being lied to and is tired of it.
The answer to her questions arrives in Melchior Gabor, a rebellious classmate who is far more informed than his peers. Sophomore Luke Martin plays Melchior not just as a young man eager to explore the world, but as one overwhelmingly saddened that his friends refuse to embrace enlightenment.
This lends a level of disillusionment to the character that matches Mendes’ Wendla well. Together, they search in each other for some semblance of hope which cannot be found.
The voice of this hopeless youth is embodied in junior Josh Horowitz’s sensitive portrayal of Moritz Stiefel, Melchior’s best friend, who feels the pressures to succeed more than any other character and ultimately buckles underneath them. Horowitz gives Moritz a tender vulnerability, making his suicide in the second act all the more heartbreaking as he becomes the victim of society’s unrealistic expectations.
Also of note are junior Julia Masotti and sophomore Elyssa Ramirez as Martha and Ilse, respectively, two of Wendla’s close friends who are physically and sexually abused by their fathers. In “The Dark I Know Well,” the two young women wail in release of their pent-up anger, letting the audience understand every inch of the pain they have suffered in silence.
Seniors Lauren Scheibly and Brandon DeFilippis achieve the formidable task of portraying all the adult characters, distinguishing their multiple identities while adapting to rapidly changing emotional contexts. In one moment they are grieving parents, the next they are hilarious caricatures of a smarmy headmaster and headmistress.
Geneseo has made its mark as one of the first colleges to perform this musical since the close of its Broadway and touring runs. In a similar way, Geneseo’s student-actors made their mark on the performance by infusing the well-known roles with original life.