Youthful awakenings

QMT’s spring production brings to life the tender and heartbreaking moments of growing up

Moritz with his school teachers as he’s about to be expelled.
Moritz with his school teachers as he’s about to be expelled.

Growing up is never easy, which the characters of Spring Awakening prove over and over again.

Queen’s Musical Theatre’s spring production takes place in 19th century Germany — a time when being a parent meant hiding the truth about sex and conception from children. That’s the basis for the show’s question-filled opening number, “Mama Who Bore Me.” The song sets the stage for Steven Sater’s rock adaptation of Frank Wedekind’s 1892 play, a heartfelt and often tender story about the turmoil of adolescence.

Contemporary music helps bring issues of sexual awakening and untimely maturation to the forefront, as seen through standout numbers like “The Bitch of Living” and “Totally Fucked.”

The cast is led by Garrett Duncan and Cody McCallum, who play Melchior and Wendla with enough poignancy and presence to carry their stories to memorable fruition. They’re two teens who, amidst all the commotion of discovering one’s own sexuality, fall in love rather innocently — despite their dire fate.

Along with Melchior and Wendla come a cast of strong supporting characters, each with their own set of issues they must overcome.

One of the most notable characters is Moritz played by Calum Mew. His utter dejection in the face of life-changing failure is something everyone can identify with. Mew plays Moritz with such earnestness and innocence that at points it’s too heartbreaking to watch. His powerful singing voice provides a much-needed reprieve from the overwhelming sadness.

The actors regularly alternate between their acting and singing duties, each one complementing the other. The teenage characters frequently join forces to belt out the songs that make up so much of the show, harmonizing or providing creative background vocals like Latin recitations in “All That’s Known.”

The first act is full of powerful chorus work, while the second act contains more solo and duet work. Just as the characters mature throughout the play, the music takes an increasingly dark and grown-up turn as the show develops.

When the actors aren’t singing, they sit directly on the sidelines in full view of the audience. The adult characters, on the other hand, are the only ones to leave the stage at the end of each of their scenes.

With no adults present for most of the play there’s a sense of openness running throughout the play. Though seated to the side, the teen characters can observe most of their peers’ activities, a feeling familiar to students in this ever-connected world.

The audience was seated around the perimeter of the square-shaped stage, only adding to the play’s exhibitionist feel, as the audience is a part of every aspect of the characters’ coming-of-age. Nothing is private, the audience soon realizes.

With a musical number in nearly every scene, there is a risk of the story getting lost in the songs. But the songs only serve to enhance the story, propelling the characters’ struggles forward with brutal honesty and a sheer force that reminds every audience member of the harsh realities of growing up.

Spring Awakening plays tonight until Saturday and April 10 to 14 at 8 p.m. with Saturday matinees at 2 p.m. in Rotunda Theatre. Tickets for general admission are $22 and students and seniors are $17.

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