“SPRING AWAKENING” a Rock Musical at JU

A JACKSONVILLE UNIVERSITY/FLAGLER COLLEGE THEATRE REVIEW

A DUAL CRITICS REVIEW BY DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM

This past weekend Jacksonville University and Flagler College members of Alpha Psi Omega collaborated to present a four-performance run during January 19 – 22 of “Spring Awakening,” a rock musical by Duncan Sheik and Steven Slater. The musical, which opened on Broadway in 2006, won eight Tony Awards including Best Musical; a 2015 revival gathered three Tony nominations. The only previous showing in this area that we know about was six years ago as part of the Artist Series.

The musical is based on an 1891 play by German playwright Frank Wedekind, the story is that of teenage protagonists of that era encountering sexuality: their world is filled with desires, dreams, dangers, conflicts with parents, school problems, physical abuse, conflicts about same-sex attraction, seduction, abortion, and suicide.. While the show has blossomed into a provocative classic, the controversial content is the reason that community theatre staging is infrequent.

This is a musical with luminous music that transports the audience to a world of the past, different but not so very different from our world today, a world where adolescents often struggle to define their future.

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Leading roles were played by both JU and Flagler students; we had seen many of the JU cast members in previous shows by the JU drama department. The leading characters were Brian Matthews (Meichior) Brandon Paris (Moritz), Emily Pate (Wendla), Samantha Wicklund (Wendla’s mother), Jamil Abdur-Rahman (Otto), Austin Satinsky (Georg), Matt Robertson (Hanschen), Zachary Polendo (Ernst) Esther Olivo (Melitta), Zoe Rosas (Thea), Sade Crosby (Anna), Savannah Elam (Martha), and Sissy Hofaker (Ilse), Katie Suddard (Adult woman), Adam Keller and Dustin Delgross (Adult men).

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The large contingent of dancers and the ensemble were Jacksonville University students and included Brooke Austin, Alycia Roselli, Alana Fautley, Savanna Mcfarlan, Kathryn Pitre, Jackson Kettell, Sarah Stepp, Charly Ann Ropper, Michaela Wright, and Andrea Vilarino.

The production was directed by Joe Kemp, who brought disciplined staging to an appropriately minimalist set ringed with scaffolding.

The pit musicians were led by Musical Director Kimberly Beasley (who was also on keyboard), and included Skyler Diacheysn (Violin/Guitar), Mamie Lue Catalina Small (Viola), Brendan Kohler (Cello), Chris Underdal Guitar), Aaron Jennings (Drums/Percussion), and Paul Jackson (Bass).

Additional Production Crew members included Victoria Miller (Choreographer) Kelly Wolfe (Assistant Director), Emilee Estep (Stage Manager), Austin Kelm & Katie Suddard (Assistant Stage Managers), Brandon Lettow (Technical Director), Esther Olivo & Kimberly Beasley (Costumes), Andrea Vilarino (Make Up/Hair Design), Charly Adams (Lighting Design), Melinda Asis (Sound Board Operator), and Emily Pate (Scenic Design & Props).

This musical drama is strange and bruising, and has provided the occasion for a powerful and imaginative performance. Thanks go to Alpha Psi Omega for bringing this fine production to North Florida, and we are hoping for additional JU – Flagler collaborations in the future.

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.

october, 2021

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