Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires

Spring Awakening
Downtown Cabaret Theatre
Review by Zander Opper | Season Schedule

Also see Fred's review of Cloud 9

Madeleine Tommins, Eric Regan, and Robert Peterpaul
Photo by Kevin McNair
Downtown Cabaret Theatre is currently presenting an entirely super production of the Tony Award winning musical Spring Awakening. With music by Duncan Sheik and book and lyrics by Steven Sater, Spring Awakening focuses on teenage students in a German town in the 1890s, but the score is pure theatre rock. Seeing this show again (I saw the original Broadway production a couple of times), I am struck at how much it harkens back to the spirit of Hair, both in its music and in its celebration of young people. Director Julie Bell Petrak has done a superb job of staging this show and her cast is altogether wonderful. Even if you don't like rock musicals, Downtown Cabaret Theatre's production of Spring Awakening is still definitely worth seeing.

One of the biggest assets that this production boasts is an excellent and rich-voiced company of actors. In the main role of Melchior, Eric Regan does a great job, both in his singing and acting. Regan has been seen at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre in supporting parts in shows such as Fiddler on the Roof and Hairspray, but he really proves in Spring Awakening that he has the charisma and talent to confidently lead a show.

This is not to say that his costars are any less effective. As Wendla, Madeleine Tommins summons up memories of the role's originator, Lea Michele, though her performance is entirely her own. She looks sweet and vulnerable wearing Christy McIntosh-Newsom's costumes (the costume design in the show is uniformly terrific) and brings a beautiful voice to such songs as "Mama Who Bore Me" and "Whispering." What's more, the relationship between Eric Regan's Melchior and Madeleine Tommins' Wendla is deeply touching and heartbreaking and the two performers have a palpable chemistry.

In other roles, the pretty Arielle Boutin shines as Ilse and she is matched by Sahai Lara as Martha (their first act number, "The Dark I Know Well," is particularly haunting). But all the young women in the cast are good, including Chelsea Dacey as Anna and Claire Regan as Thea, and they harmonize beautifully. As the male students, Matthew Casey is funny as Hanschen (his seduction scene with Michael Major's adorable Ernst is a highlight) and Mark Joy as Georg and Garth West as Otto are also quite strong. Playing all of the adults in the piece, David Jackins and Robie Livingstone are suitably versatile and authoritative.

And then there is Robert Peterpaul, as the ill-fated Moritz, the part that won John Gallagher, Jr. a Tony Award on Broadway. This is a showy role and Peterpaul certainly makes the most of it. His singing voice is great, but what really makes his performance stand out is his acting, as he believably conveys a mixture of shame and wonder, and one really feels for his conflicted plight. It also helps that he leads the song "The Bitch of Living" excellently and his counterpoint duet with Arielle Boutin's Ilse, "Don't Do Sadness"/"Blue Wind," is a stunner.

Mention must also be made of the inventive scenic design by William Russell Stark and the particularly effective lighting design by Phill Hill. Also, Eli Newsom does a great job as musical director of the rocking onstage band. And one of the most ingenious ideas in this presentation of Spring Awakening is the use of projections above the stage (credit going to Mat Young and Don Rowe) that definitely enhance the production.

Director Julie Bell Petrak works seamlessly with choreographer Emily Frangipane, who provides the propulsive dances that help to bring this musical to life. Spring Awakening is a great show for the Downtown Cabaret Theatre to be doing, and by the time of the final number, "The Song of Purple Summer," one is able to truly feel the power of this show. Spring Awakening at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre is thus most highly recommended.

Performances of Spring Awakening continue at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre in Bridgeport, CT through April 2, 2017. For tickets, please visit or call the box office at 203-576-1636.