Known for launching the careers of Glee alums Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff, the Tony Award-winning Spring Awakening isn’t a youngster anymore: The show, based on Frank Wedekind’s play with music by pop singer Duncan Sheik, is 10 years old now. But Slow Burn Theatre’s new production of this story of sexual awakening in late 19th century Germany makes it feel as fresh and vibrant as ever.
Nominated for 15 Carbonell Awards including nine for Big Fish and four for Bonnie & Clyde, Slow Burn has been on a roll lately (January’s Violet was also an engaging, thought-provoking production). With Spring Awakening, the company — now comfortably inhabiting its new home at the Amaturo Theater at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts — expands on its fine work, capturing the furious energy and the aching sorrow of the show — and of youth itself.
Key to the production’s success is assembling a dynamic young cast to play the restless students burdened by the oppressive morals of their parents, the callous cruelty of their teachers and their own confusing, raging hormones. Artistic director Patrick Fitzwater, who’s also responsible for the terrific choreography, has a stellar group on his hands, chief among them Bobby Cassell as the defiant Melchior, who disavows God and shares with his friends everything he knows about sex, and newcomer Stephanny Noria as the innocent Wendla, who begs her mother for the facts of life (in the gorgeous Mama Who Bore Me) and pays a steep price for her ignorance. For all its obsession with the subject and its merry self-groping, Spring Awakening is not casual about sex at all.
The rest of the ensemble — which includes Cameron Jordan as the hapless Moritz, Melchior’s best friend and Daniel Kies as the self-assured Hanschen, who seduces a classmate — works together flawlessly. Once or twice the orchestra, directed by Caryl Fantel, overwhelms a few of the female voices, particularly in the chilling The Dark I Know Well, in which two of the girls (Cristina Flores and Jessica Brooke Sanford) reflect on the abuse they suffer at the hands of their fathers. But overall the musical numbers shine, whether they’re happily profane gems (such as the comic The Bitch of Living or the gleeful Totally F*cked, the song most likely to remain lodged in your brain) or poignant self-reflection (Melchior’s haunting Those You’ve Known).
The scenic and lighting design (by Sean McClelland and Becky Montero respectively) transform the Amaturo stage into a world that can inhabit a school, a hayloft, a cemetery and still contain every passionate emotion flitting through this bodies of these stomping, swirling teenagers. Right down to its exuberant curtain call, Spring Awakening urges you to live and never apologize for it.
If You Go
What: “Spring Awakening” by Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik; based on the play by Frank Wedekind
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays through April 3
Where: Amaturo Theater at The Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave, Fort Lauderdale
Tickets: $45; www.browardcenter.org