Review: ‘Spring Awakening’ at Palisades High School is Memorable

By Sue Pascoe

Congratulations are deserved on several levels for the phenomenal production of “Spring Awakening” at Palisades High School. Long after I left Mercer Hall on Friday evening, March 17 the message of this play (written in 1891 by Frank Wedeking) and the talented actors who presented it, stayed in my thoughts.

Cast of “Spring Awakening” perform at Mercer Hall. Photo: Drew Vaupen.
Cast of “Spring Awakening” perform at Mercer Hall. Photo: Drew Vaupen.

During the 1990s playwright and lyricist Steven Sater added music to the play, and when it debuted on Broadway in December 2006, the rock musical won eight Tony Awards, including for Best Musical, Direction, Book, Score and Featured Actor. The original cast album received a Grammy Award.

This musical drama deals with teenagers as they navigate their way through emerging sexuality, the fear of failure in school, the angst of disappointing their parents, childhood abuse, a botched abortion, homosexuality, suicide and the total breakdown in communication between generations.

This is not an “Oklahoma” or “Guys and Dolls,” but much more complex, and relevant today. Even if you don’t feel like going to a show that’s not “light,” go anyway. You won’t be disappointed.

This is a show that needs to be performed by teens, and it is perfectly cast at PaliHi. The voices, oh the voices!

The talent in this production is exceptional, and it’s difficult to single out just two or three outstanding performances, because there were so many.

Directors Cheri and Monique Smith cast Spotlight Awards semi-finalist Roberta Alaman as lead actress Wendla Bergmann. Senior Gabe Galef (a football quarterback last fall), plays the rebellious Melchior Gabor. Both are stellar.

Max Vaupen as Moritz is Melchior’s best friend. His duet with Taylor Schonbuch (Ilse) is beyond wonderful.

The song at the end of Act Two, “Those You’ve Known,” sung by Alaman, Galef and Vaupen was bittersweet, but hopeful, with a promise that things will be different in the future.

Perhaps the most joyous time was the end of the show, when the energy of the cast exploded across the stage.

The choreography by Cheri Smith is clever, and I particularly liked the classroom and the movement during “The Bitch of Living.” Choir teacher Joshua Elson has done admirable work with his students—the music was superb. A six-person orchestra on stage provided the instrumental background.

Kudos to Palisades High for allowing this controversial production to be presented. This is all about teens, and the powerful message of the play is for all generations to participate in an honest dialogue.

Remaining shows are Thursday, March 23 7 p.m., Friday at 7 p.m. and  Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets are $16 for regular seating and $23 for VIP.

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