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Spring Awakening
freeFall Theatre Company


Lucas Wells, Chase Peacock and Rachel Potter
Its always exciting to encounter new things. I was able to discover a new, exciting theater company in St. Petersburg, Florida, and a Tony Award winning musical which I wanted to see, but only in a good production, in one afternoon. Spring Awakening by Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik, based on the play by Frank Wedekind, is probably not a musical I could be expected to love—I am not a rock music kind of guy and I'm well over the age of the characters. Still, I found myself liking it much better than I expected I would: The story is compelling and the juxtaposition between the contemporary sound of the music and the setting, Germany in the late 1800s, is strangely compelling as well.

Everything about this production is exciting, staged in the round on a multi-layered stage with the six musicians grouped in various corners of the auditorium. The whole becomes an environmental staging, quite effective for this piece. The direction by Eric Davis and especially the choreography by Megan Morgan focus the ever-changing emotions of the characters. Having seen clips of the Broadway production, I realize that this production is inspired by that one. Lighting design by Mike Wood is some of the most evocative I have seen in a long while, using everything from blue/red/white lighting boards, traditional hang lighting, to incandescent bulbs in various colors. Costumes by Scott Daniel, also appearing in the cast, straddle the modern/historical dichotomy. Music director Michael Raabe paces the show well and keeps his musicians together, no easy feat considering the lack of physical proximity. The one weakness is the sound design—I had a great deal of trouble understanding more than a few of the lyrics.

freeFall is fielding a very strong cast, Rachel Potter, on Broadway in The Adams Family, as Wendla, Lucas Wells as Moritz, and Chase Peacock playing Melchior are all excellent. Ms. Potter captures the total na´vetÚ in the early part as well as the lack of comprehension of how she ended up pregnant. Mr. Wells is believable as an adolescent caught between sexual instincts coupled with lack of knowledge and parental guidance. Melchior is the center of the piece and Chase Peacock shows the star quality needed to fill the role. A mostly older audience seemed to be involved with the plights of the characters. One weakness is that the two most shocking moments are not as in your face as I would like them to be.

The rest of the young cast playing supporting parts do so with great presence, all singing strongly both solos and as an ensemble. Lisa Kay Powers as all the adult women and Steve Garland as all the adult men are formidable, but it is difficult to tell what character they are playing from time to time, perhaps a problem with the script.

I am glad I got to experience this very challenging musical in such a fine production. I now look forward to freeFall Theatre's next season which will include Fiddler on the Roof, The Normal Heart, a rethinking of The Mikado, and The Burnt Part Boys.

freeFall Theatre Company presents Spring Awakening through August 18, 2013, at 6099 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg. For ticket and performance information, visit www.freefalltheatre.com.

Cast:
Wendla: Rachel Potter*
Melchior: Chase Peacock*
Moritz: Lucas Wells*
Martha: Honey Ribar
Thea: Katie Berger
Anna: Caroline Drage
Ilse: Alex Covington*
Hanschen/Rupert: Scott Daniel*
Ernst/Reinhold: Emanuel Carrera
George/Dieter: Griffeth Whitehurst
Otto/Ulbrecht: Chris Brent Davis
Adult Women: Lisa Kay Powers*
Adult Men: Steve Garland*
*Member of Actor's Equity Association

Director: Eric Davis
Music Director: Michael Raabe
Choreographer: Megan Morgan
Scenic Design: Eric Davis
Costume Design: Scott Daniel
Lighting Design: Mike Wood
Production Stage Manager: Daniel LeMien* Burt Rushing: Drums/Percussion
Mary-Cathryn Zimmer: Cello
Marta Bukacek: Violin
Tito Vallejo: Bass
Paul Stoddart: Guitar

--William S. Oser



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