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Youth in Revolt

Spring Awakening features sex, abortion, suicide, incest and homosexuality all in one hell of a rock musical

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Every now and again all the elements of a production come together to make one glorious whole. Such is the case with Lake City Playhouse’s production of Spring Awakening, perhaps the most consistently entertaining, intellectually satisfying, and polished theatrical performance of any in the Inland Northwest in the past year.

Some of its appeal lies in the musical itself, a controversial 1891 expressionist play by Frank Wedekind that was exhumed in 2006 and given a compelling rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater. Spring Awakening isn’t, however, all white teeth and jazz hands. It isn’t boy marries girl or orphan makes good. It’s about adolescence, raw and unmitigated, and therefore it’s a play of stark contrasts: obedience and rebellion, lasciviousness and levity, tenderness and carnality, hope and despair, self-assurance and confusion, innocence and experience, and above all, ignorance and knowledge.

The actors and actresses — many of whom have just left high school themselves — are a showcase of local talent perfectly cast. Jordan Taylor plays the charismatic star pupil Melchior opposite Abby Anderson as beautiful, naive Wendla; together the two of them discover both spiritual and physical love. But Wendla in particular is deliberately kept unaware of the consequences of physical love, and they will each separately bear the tragic consequences.

Ross Mumford plays Moritz, a neurotic and conflicted teen oppressed by his overbearing father (played, along with all the other male adult roles in subtle variations, by director George Green). Mumford’s singing voice isn’t as reliable as Taylor’s or as pristine as Anderson’s, but its angst and erraticism suit his tormented character.

The choreography by Siri Hafso, who also plays the psychologically damaged runaway Ilse, is on the same high level. The stomping percussion of “The Bitch of Living,” or the cast circling Hanschen as he masturbates (although in the best possible taste) in “My Junk,” or the exuberant rage of “Totally F---ed” all complement Sheik’s music and embody Sater’s lyrics.

Performances by Brendan Brady (Hanschen), Mario Zavala (Ernst), and Emily Cleveland (Martha) are all worth noting, not least because the actors rise to meet their challenging roles with tenderness and conviction. Nor should the note-perfect chorus/orchestra under Mike Saccomanno go without a mention.

There are few reasons not to make a point of seeing this woefully short run, least of all its warnings about its “mature” themes, since our prudish reluctance to address those themes is at its very heart. Take your teenage sons and daughters, cringe when the actors revel in profanity, or wince at the threat of a breast being exposed — and then talk about it afterward. It might take the sting out of a tumultuous couple of years.

Spring Awakening • Thu-Sat, 7:30 pm • $9-$17 • Lake City Playhouse • 1320 E. Garden Ave., Coeur d’Alene • lakecityplayhouse.org • (208)-667-1323

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