A play about a group of German teenagers going through puberty in sexually oppressive 1800s Germany doesn’t sound like the source material for one of the most groundbreaking and popular musicals of recent time, but Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater‘s Spring Awakening has become just that. Instantly becoming a hit with audiences after its 2006 Broadway premiere, the musical won 8 Tony Awards and has now returned to the UK in a new production at Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre.
Sheik and Sater have taken Frank Wedekind’s 1881 play and turned it into a hugely relevant and contemporary story about how dangerous miscommunication between youths and adults can be. The direction by Luke Sheppard and choreography by Tom Jackson Greaves helps the show’s contemporary feel, the choreography being particularly impressive. Gabriella Slade‘s set and costumes are also brilliant, along with very strong and impressive lighting by Nic Farman and sound by Leigh Davies. Considering the size of the venue, I was pleasantly surprised by how strong the production values were and considering the success of previous Hope Mill productions Hair and Pippin in their respective London transfers, it would not at all surprise me if this followed suit as it is extremely deserving of it.
The extremely young cast made up of mostly recent, or even some soon-to-be, graduates were insanely talented and gave this already vibrant and youthful show an even more punchy and rambunctious feel. Future graduate of Guildford School of Acting, Darragh Cowley played Melchior with a playful smirk and a blend of both cockiness and naivety, ideal for this role. Nikita Johal played female lead Wendla with the perfect amount of wide-eyed wonder and a longing to understand and experience the world. Closing up the leading trio as Moritz was Jabez Sykes who had the necessary intensity and vulnerability that has become synonymous with the role. The three also gave exquisite vocal performances, coming together for the heartbreaking penultimate number, Those You’ve Known.
Teleri Hughes as Ilse gave a lovely performance showing off a beautiful voice, leading the company in the rousing finale, The Song of Purple Summer, and being joined by Seyi Omooba as Martha in what was an arresting rendition of The Dark I Know Well, which proved to be my highlight of the show. Omooba was particularly powerful in her role and I came away needing to know where her career goes from here on. Alongside Hughes and Omooba were Beth Hinton-Lever as Thea and Sophia Simões da Silva as Anna who both performed with gravitas and strength, as well as Gillian Kirkpatrick who was quite frankly hilarious as Adult Woman in a multitude of different characters.
Adam Dawson played Hänschen with the typical sardonic wit and deadpan looks alongside Luke Latchman’s innocent and unassuming Ernst. The pair had great chemistry and their beautiful version of Act 2 duet, The Word of Your Body (Reprise), was a sign of this. Alongside them were Christian Tyler-Wood as Georg and Tim Mahendran as Otto, who both had small moments to shine, Tyler-Wood‘s involving an electric guitar, and Neil Stewart as Adult Man, who was as strong as his female counterpart in a variety of different roles.
With a hardworking young cast and very strong production values for what is such as small theatre, this production of Spring Awakening has a lot of merit and will no doubt go on to have a brilliant life elsewhere in the country. This production runs at the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester until 3rd May. Visit their website for tickets and more information: https://hopemilltheatre.co.uk/
For more updates on this production, visit https://twitter.com/Spring_Mcr, or for further updates from producer Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainment, visit http://aria-entertainment.com/ or https://twitter.com/AriaEnts