Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern

Spring Awakening

Christy Altomare and Jake Epstein
The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County presents the Broadway Across America —Miami production of the acclaimed rock musical Spring Awakening. Based on the 1891 German play of the same name by Frank Wedekind, the musical features a book and lyrics by Steven Sater and music by Duncan Sheik.

The musical Spring Awakening had a number of workshops, concerts and rewrites over a seven-year period before it finally premiered Off-Broadway at the Atlantic Theatre Company on May 19, 2006, running through August 5, 2006. A Broadway production opened at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre on December 10, 2006, running through January 18, 2009 for 888 performances, and receiving eight Tony Awards (including Tonys for best musical, best direction, best book, best score and best featured actor).

Set in late nineteenth-century Germany, Spring Awakening concerns teenagers dealing with the pains of sexual self-discovery in a repressed society. Their questions and concerns are no different than those of any other teenager amidst the throngs of puberty. These teenagers are so poorly prepared and supported, however, that their explorations are met with disastrous effects. The script deals with masturbation, abortion, homosexuality, rape, bondage, child abuse and suicide. The folk-infused rock score is written and played with great attention to the emotional tension of every scene. The moments of frustration and longing are undeniably written in each song, and at times uniquely allow a musical dialogue between the instruments and the singer(s).

There is a simplistic starkness to the set as well as the costuming in this production. The use of hand-held microphones, or microphones on stands, serves to visually modernize the feel of the 1890s time period. Those aspects hold striking contrast against the plain dresses of the girls, and the prep-school uniforms of the boys. The use of microphones can be said to symbolically represent the teenagers' internal desires to be in a modern society where they are free from so much repression. Throughout the play, their longing is strong enough to feel its ache. Staging is used to mirror their near rage-filled frustration in songs such as "The Bitch of Living" and "Totally Fucked," as they stomp and fling themselves about the stage. There is also the repeated gesture of lingering hands drawn across one's own body, like the caress of a lover.

Christy Altomare as Wendla starts the show with a hauntingly pure voice in "Mama Who Bore Me". Her tenderhearted performance is well matched with that of Jake Epstein as Melchior. Epstein's performance as Melchior is appropriately woven with a confusion borne of good intent. A minor hand-held microphone issue at the start was quickly fixed, and the only odd acting choice is that of Matt Shingledecker as Georg whose face for the entire performance is as expressionless as someone freshly Botoxed. Angela Reed and John Wojda deftly play all the adult roles, from stern school master to kind mother. The free-spirited Ilse is played by Steffi D with flair. The sound of the ensemble singing is rich, and their acting fills every space.

While the story of Spring Awakening is ripe with the dysfunctions of puberty, the musical is crafted with expertise, and this production bears the same expertise in every detail. Powerful and poetic, this Spring Awakening is filled with strong performances and countless moments beautifully acted and sung.

German expressionist playwright Frank Wedekind (born Benjamin Franklin Wedekind) was a major influence on the development of epic theatre. His first major play Spring Awakening was followed by his best known works, the "Lulu" plays: Earth Spirit and Pandora's Box. His work often criticized bourgeois attitudes towards sex as is exemplified in the Wedekind quote "Search fearlessly for every sin, for out of sin comes joy." Spring Awakening was banned in Germany for almost a century due to its controversial nature.

Spring Awakening will be appearing May 11 —16, 2010 in the Sanford and Dolores Ziff Ballet Opera House of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County. The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County is made possible by the public support of t he Miami-Dade County Major and the Board of County Commissioners, the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council, and the Miami-Dade County Tourist Development Council. It also receives generous support from private and corporate contributions to the Performing Arts Center Foundation of Greater Miami through it's Membership Program, the City of Miami Omni Community Redevelopment Agency, the Dade Community Foundation, The MAP-Fund, the Sate of Florida, the Department of State, the Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County is located at 1300 N. Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL., and houses the 2,400 seat Sanford and Dolores Ziff Ballet Opera House, as well as the 2,200 seat John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall, and the 300 seat Carnival Studio Theater. For information, or to purchase tickets for the many diverse offering of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, you may contact them at 305-949-6722, or visit them on line at

This Broadway Across America —Miami production of Spring Awakening at the The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County is presented by Ira Pittelman, Tom Hulce, Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, Atlantic Theatre Company, Jeffrey Sine, Maz Cooper, Cindy and Jay Gutterman, Joe McGinnis, Judith Ann Abrams, Patricia Flicker Addiss, ZenDog Productions, CarJac Productions, Aron Bergson Productions, Jennifer Manocherian, Ted Snowdon, Harold Thau, Terry Schnuck, Cold Spring Productions, Amanda Dubois, Elizabeth Eynon Wetherell and Joan Cullman Productions. Broadway Across America - Miami is presented in arrangement with the Florida Theatrical Association, which is a non-profit, civic organization with a volunteer board of trustees established to ensure the continued presentation of quality national touring Broadway productions in the state of Florida. Broadway Across America is dedicated to creating memorable and accessible theatrical experiences for all guests, selling over five million tickets to first rate Broadway shows, family productions and other live theatrical events in over 40 North American cities each year. For more information or to purchase tickets through an authorized agent, please visit

Wendla: Christy Altomare
The Adult Women: Angela Reed
Martha: Sarah Hunt
Ilse: Steffi D
Anna: Gabrielle Garza
Thea: Kimiko Glenn
The Adult Men: John Wojda
Otto: Anthony Lee Medina
Hanschen: Robert Hager
Ernst: Ben Fankhauser
Georg: Matt Shingledecker
Moritz: Taylor Trensch
Melchior: Jake Epstein
Ensemble: Krystina Alabado, Justin Scott Brown, Kayla Foster, Lucas A. Wells

Director: Michael Mayer
Music Director: Kristen Lee Rosenfeld
Choreography: Bill T. Jones
Scenic Design: Christine Jones
Lighting Design: Kevin Adams
Sound Design: Brian Ronan
Costume Design: Susan Hilferty
Production Stage Manager: Eric Sprosty

The actors and stage managers in this production are members of Actor's Equity Association, the union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

Photos: Joan Marcus

See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere

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