Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Alpha Omega's 'Spring Awakening' is edgy and powerful

Joe Gery and Sarah Wisser in "Spring Awakening"
By Cheryl Thornburg
I have heard really good things about the Alpha Omega Players, and Sunday I finally had the opportunity to see one of their shows.  They did not disappoint. Their final performance of the Tony-award-winning, somewhat controversial, “Spring Awakening” was edgy, polished and professional.
Based on an 1891 play by Frank Wedekind that was banned in Germany, “Spring Awakening,” is an intense and at times, disturbing, coming-of-age story that touches on many hot-button issues of today including suicide, rape, incest, homosexuality, physical abuse and abortion. It sounds like it would be a totally depressing experience, but it is not, due to the powerful, driving music of Duncan Sheik and the words of Steven Sater. 
It takes amazing actors to pull this off and this cast delivers scene after scene.
At the heart of the show is a love story between Wendla and Melchior, played by Sarah Wisser and Joe Gery. They have believable chemistry on stage and have voices perfectly suited to each role. Wisser’s “Mama Who Bore Me,” is passionate and powerful and sets the tone for the hormone-infused numbers to follow. Together, they create some of the most memorable tender moments in the show with  “The Word of Your Body” and “Whispering.”
In contrast to the intimate scenes of the lovers are some almost explosive group numbers with the teens. Most notable of these is “The Bitch of Living” headed up by Justin Monick as Moritz, Melchior’s best friend. Monick puts so much energy into the music and character that is mesmerizing.  He also has a softer side, as shown in the final act, when he joins Wisser and Gery for the exquisite “Those You’ve Known.”
Perhaps the thing I liked best about this show is that although the lead characters have many great numbers, there are also many great songs where other cast members get to showcase their talent.
Mandalee Flannery plays Martha, who comes from an abusive home and Allison Horn plays Ilsa, a victim of incest. They each get to tell their story in the haunting  “The Dark I Know Well.”
Many of the numbers have break-out solos, so each cast member gets to shine. The cast includes Corey Clark as Hanschen, Jacob Cowan as Otto, Morgan Konopelski as Thea, Andrew Hess as Ernst, Amy Swartz as Anna, Sean Lynch as Georg and Amanda Gray and Ryan Sullivam in the ensemble,
 Kirsten Heim and William Eschbach play the Adult Woman the Adult Man, which presents real challenges since they play multiple roles, often with no costume change. They both handle this well, using body language, gestures and voice changes to create the different characters.
The show was directed by Mark A. Drey with Nathan Patton as musical director.
Hats off to choreographer Jacob Cowan who put together some really big, high-energy dance routines in a very small space. Patton also manages to conduct a group of musicians on that same small stage, backing up the singers without overpowering them.
Although this run has ended, Alpha/Omega Players has much in store for the coming season, including ‘The Rocky Horror Show” in October and “Disney’s The Little Mermaid” in November.
Alpha/Omega Performing Arts Center, is located at  301 E. First Street, in Birdsboro.
For more information go to www.alphaomegaplayers.org/


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