Being a teenager is hard.
Taking a hard and heartfelt look at emerging sexuality in teenagers, Director of Theater Mark Lococo delivers a show that masterfully evokes happiness, sadness, outrage and introspection from its audience by not just portraying a show, but by creating lovable, three-dimensional characters, and telling a story that hits its highs and lows with bravado. Carried out by a brilliant cast of Loyola students, the show is irresistibly enjoyable and undeniably relevant to anyone’s teenage experience.
The foundation for the show’s excellence lies in its small but well-rounded group of actors. Led by senior Brian Shutters as the intelligent and rebellious Melchior, senior Summer Hofford as the innocent and curious Wendla, and junior Ben Zeman as the skittishly lovable Moritz, the entire cast was strong, both in singing and acting. When given their individual spotlight, each member shined, breathing life and meaning to even minor characters. When in the background, they were not a separate entity from the main singer, but were seamlessly fitted within the scene, giving the show a consistent, pleasant balance.
Spring Awakening tackles issues such as withholding information on sex and abuse, the discovery of puberty, the stress of succeeding and social oppression by the older generation. Though it may seem like a lot to fit in a two hour musical, the show expertly highlights each idea, either outwardly in song or dialogue or through more subtle aspects such as props, lighting and the choreography.
For example, a prominent item throughout the show is Melchior’s journal, which represents his thoughts and rationale. Its presence, and in more important cases, lack thereof, coincides with key plot points throughout the show.
In addition to props, lighting is consistently used to portray characters’ mood, such as the hopelessness Moritz feels at the climax of the show, emphasized by a small spot light surrounded by an almost pitch black stage.
On top of that, the choreography in the show, though sometimes simple in nature, was almost always symbolic.
This included referencing movements such as in the first song, “Mama Who Bore Me,” in one of the more intimate and sexually exploring scenes. Half of the fun of watching Spring Awakening is just interpreting the deeper meanings and references to various themes throughout the production.
I also have to applaud the tasteful way some scenes were presented. The first of these featured two of the characters singing about being sexually and physically abused by their fathers, which, in productions at other theaters, coincides with more lewd choreography.
The second is a famous scene in which two of the main characters have sex onstage. In the Broadway production, the scene involves nudity. For Loyola’s production, however, these scenes were modified to be able to convey the message without being over the top or offensive.
That isn’t to say the show is all literary analysis and no fun, though. For all its serious themes, the play is extremely entertaining and sometimes even makes you chuckle. Even in the climax of the play (which is one of the most serious parts), witty dialogue and great acting from Zeman and other performer Alexa Badalament still bring humor.
The music, which crosses back and forth between alternative rock and folk, peaks when it reaches its more energetic tunes, such as “The Bitch of Living,” or the cast favorite, “Totally Fucked.” The lyrics reflect the thoughts of the characters, which are colorful expressions of their frustrations with their situations.
Like almost everything in Spring Awakening, the songs also sometimes need a second listen to fully understand their meanings. But this doesn’t make the songs any less catchy, and the angst that seems to burst from each song makes the urge to join in fairly contagious. Add in the choreography, which does a lot with such a limited set, and you have a show that is an engaging and interesting watch beyond its literary merits.
Loyola’s theater department not only succeeds with Spring Awakening but excels. Though working with great material, the DFPA has created a musical that is remarkable in its own right, with credit due to all hands involved. A joy to watch from start to finish, this show is a must-see for any Loyola student.