×

Spring Awakening

With the success of the musical version of "Spring Awakening" in New York, interest in the long-censored original drama by 19th century playwright Frank Wedekind has been reawakened -- or perhaps just awakened. The impressive Philadelphia debut from relocated New Orleans company EgoPo gives us Wedekind straight up (if you can call highly stylized German expressionism straight up).

With:
Wendla - Megan McDermott Martha - Megan Hoke Ilse, Ina - Colleen Hughes Hanschen - Kelly Groves Ernst - Sean Lally Georg - Drew Petersen Moritz - Doug Greene Melchior - Robert DaPonte Masked Man, Herr Stiefel - … Terry Brennan Frau Gabor - Leah Walton Herr Gabor - Rob Neddoff

With the success of the musical version of “Spring Awakening” in New York, interest in the long-censored original drama by 19th century playwright Frank Wedekind has been reawakened — or perhaps just awakened. The impressive Philadelphia debut from relocated New Orleans company EgoPo gives us Wedekind straight up (if you can call highly stylized German expressionism straight up). Combining masks with precision physical movement, the production is always interesting to look at if sometimes tedious to listen to — a little heavy-handed satire goes a long way. But the 1891 modernist classic has been well served.

The stage floor is gorgeously carpeted with flowers — thick, lush and colorful — with masses more coming through the windows. “Spring Awakening” is about the springtime of life, and it’s clear that being a teenager a century ago was no easier than being a teenager nowadays. By the second act, the flowers have disappeared, the dirt floor and grim lighting suggesting the dark direction of events.

The 14-year-olds may declaim in stiff language and wear old-fashioned clothes, but their youthful angst, sexual discovery and parental pressure are entirely recognizable. Kept from the public eye due to its frank treatment of teen pregnancy, abortion, homosexuality, masturbation, sadomasochism and suicide, “Spring Awakening” did not receive its first uncensored production until 1974.

The play’s point of view is entirely the adolescents’ — their parents and teachers all wear masks (by Naomi Littell) suggesting various degrees of grotesque aging, with iron-clad hair and hideously wrinkled green and purple faces. Consistent with most teenagers’ perspective, adults are generally awful — repressive, cruel, prudish and pompous.

This is in contrast to the fresh-faced, smooth, strong-limbed ensemble of actors playing girls and boys; everyone performs barefoot, creating visceral as well as visual power under Lane Savadove’s inventive direction.

Especially good are Doug Greene as Moritz, the most troubled of the boys; Robert DaPone as Melchior, his intellectually rebellious friend; and Megan McDermott as Wendla, a romantic girl kept in disastrous ignorance by her mother. Leah Walton as Frau Gabor delivers a great scene as she speaks aloud her letter to Moritz as his “maternal friend,” refusing him help while corseting herself as she dresses.

The final scene in the graveyard is both beautiful and chilling, reprising the haunting motif from Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas”: “When I am laid in earth, may my wrongs create no trouble in my breast. Remember me, remember me but forget my fate.” But the scene in which the Masked Man (a character dropped from the Duncan Sheik/Steven Sater musical) lures Melchior back to life is disappointingly choreographed, muddling the show’s final point.

Douglas Langworthy’s new translation departs from the conventional only in its rare use of contemporary slang, and the production would benefit from trimming the script from its nearly three hours.

EgoPo introduces itself to Philadelphia with this show; two years ago, while performing in the Philadelphia Fringe, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the company’s home base, destroying its new theater building as well as the homes of its members. The troupe is a welcome addition to the city’s theater scene.

Popular on Variety

Spring Awakening

Adrienne Theater, Philadelphia, 106 seats, $28 top

Production: An EgoPo presentation of a play in two acts by Frank Wedekind, translated by Douglas Langworthy. Directed by Lane Savadove. Sets, Corey Lunchuck and Nick Lopez; costumes, Jamie Grace-Duff; lighting, Matt Sharp; masks, Naomi Littell; production stage manager, Lindsay Schwartz. Opened March 9, 2007. Reviewed March 10. Running time: 2 HOURS, 50 MIN.

Cast: Wendla - Megan McDermott Martha - Megan Hoke Ilse, Ina - Colleen Hughes Hanschen - Kelly Groves Ernst - Sean Lally Georg - Drew Petersen Moritz - Doug Greene Melchior - Robert DaPonte Masked Man, Herr Stiefel - … Terry Brennan Frau Gabor - Leah Walton Herr Gabor - Rob Neddoff

More Legit

  • Ben McKenzie

    'Gotham' Star Ben McKenzie to Make Broadway Debut in 'Grand Horizons'

    “Gotham” star Ben McKenzie will make his Broadway debut in Bess Wohl’s “Grand Horizons.” He joins a cast that includes Oscar nominees Jane Alexander (“Kramer vs. Kramer,” “The Great White Hope”) and James Cromwell (“Babe,” “L.A. Confidential”). The show has a strictly limited 10-week run and begins previews on Dec. 23, 2019, before officially opening [...]

  • The Great Society review

    Listen: Brian Cox on 'Succession,' Shakespeare, and the Crisis We're In

    Brian Cox is having a pop-culture moment with “Succession,” the buzzy HBO series in which he stars. But he’s also an accomplished theater actor with plenty of experience doing Shakespeare — and it serves him well in both “Succession” and in his current Broadway show, “The Great Society.” Listen to this week’s podcast below: Cox [...]

  • Scooby Doo Ella Louise Allaire Martin

    Scooby-Doo Live Theater Tour Is Goofy Dane's Latest Adventure

    From its 1969 start as a Saturday morning kids mystery cartoon series “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” starring its titular, talking Great Dane and his four teenaged friends, has made adventure its staple. Once Hanna-Barbera’s successor, Warner Bros. Animation, took the leash, Scooby and company became a comic book, a board game, a series of video [...]

  • Tootsie Santino Fontana

    'Tootsie' Ending Broadway Run in January

    “Tootsie,” the critically acclaimed musical adaptation of the 1982 classic film comedy, will play its final Broadway performance on Jan. 5, 2020. When it wraps up its run, the show will have logged 293 regular and 25 preview performances at the cavernous Marquis Theatre, where it sometimes labored to draw big crowds. Last week, “Tootsie” [...]

  • Laurel Griggs

    Laurel Griggs, Broadway and 'SNL' Actress, Dies at 13

    Laurel Griggs, who starred in Broadway’s “ONCE the Musical” as Ivanka, has died. She was 13. An obituary posted to Dignity Memorial indicates she died on Nov. 5, and Griggs’ grandfather wrote on Facebook that her death was due to a massive asthma attack. Griggs made her Broadway debut when she was six years old [...]

  • West End celling collapse

    Ceiling Collapse at 'Death of a Salesman' Leads to Theater Closure, Boycott Threats

    The West End revival of “Death of a Salesman” has moved into a temporary space after parts of the ceiling of Piccadilly Theatre collapsed during a Wednesday night performance. Five audience members sustained minor injuries and were taken to area hospitals. The theater will remain closed for the rest of the week. In the meantime, [...]

  • Tina review

    Broadway Review: 'Tina'

    “Now, that’s what I call a Broadway show!” That’s what the stranger sitting next to me at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater yelled into my ear at the roof-raising finale of “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical.” I’d say he nailed it. Call “Tina” a jukebox musical or a bio-musical or anything you want to call it, but [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content