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Something Unique and Different... Sheer Perfection

21-Jan-2016
Alan Breslof, Around the Town

FIVE of FIVE STARS | HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

...I bore witness to something unique and different at The Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire and want to thank Aaron Thielen, Terry James and Andy Hite for their genius idea of bringing the Rock Musical “Spring Awakening” to their stage. This might just be the BEST production EVER to hit this famed and popular stage!

For those of you not knowledgeable about “Spring Awakening”, it is a Rock Musical based on the play written by Frank Wedekind, with a book and lyrics by Steven Slater and music by Duncan Sheik. The story takes place in the late 1890’s as we watch young people begin their sexual awakening and learn about morality, rebellion, love - in fact, the journey from adolescence to adulthood with all the snags that rise in between. We are in Germany, and of course during this time, segregation was more than a race issue. Boys and girls were not together. Even in schools and parents did not allow them to “play” with one another as well. As the teens begin to have sexual feelings, of which they are taught nothing, they find themselves wanting to learn and explore and while they are afraid of what they might find, there is no stopping the desires they are struggling with.

Directed and choreographed by Thielen (a first time and one that is worthy of notice by the Jeff Committee) on a restructured theater with set design by Tom Ryan, this is indeed a new look for the theater and one that in fact, costs them a great deal of revenue as they have given up about 1/4 of their seating capacity to bring this special show to you. The theater, one that is considered “in-the-round” has been re-configured to have seating on three sides only and a floor and walls have been structured in what was the fourth section and the orchestra pit. The musicians ( Patti Garwood and six others who make this musical one that will leave an imprint in your mind) are on the stage during the entire performance. The adults in this play are played by two of Chicago’s finest, Kevin Gudahl and Hollis Resnik who can truly pull off this feat with no hitches at all.

The boys and girls - the ensemble is sheer perfection as their voices blend perfectly for ensemble numbers with each solo voice making each of the songs have more meaning and storytelling understanding for us. Rock Musicals are, for the most part, loud and hard to follow. This amazing production never loses us as the story of these youngsters is told in great detail. The main kids in the story are Melchior ( Patrick Rooney who wowed us last year in “October Sky” showing us just how talented he is) who teaches his best friend Moritz (deftly handled by Ben Barker) about the “ways of the world and of course, “sex”. Melchior falls in love with Wendla (a dynamic performance by Eliza Palasz).

What happens to these youngsters is in fact tragic, but during this period of time, normal is not what we know today. This story takes us into the world of abortion, homosexuality, suicide and more. There are many graphic scenes including masturbation on the stage (handled with discretion, of course) but it is a play of choice, not being part of the season, thus be careful and do not take youngsters to this one. I think that Juniors and Seniors in high school may benefit from what they see as the feelings they are having will be just as the ensemble portrays. The difference in time and our knowledge of sex is of course much greater than these kids had, but again, this is probably an R rated show.

As I said, the ensemble in this piece shines. In fact, they glitter like gold; Caleb Baze, Anna Blanchard, Brian Bohr, Nick Graffagna, Derek Hasenstab, Callie Johnson, Nate Lewellyn, Adhanna Cemone Reid, Garrett Lutz, Liam Quealy, Elizabeth Stenholt, Tiffany Tatreau and Betsy Stewart as Ilse. Highly energetic, solid voices, great movement and in all, a sparkling cast to make a sparkling production work to perfection! The costumes by Susan Hilferty (and of course Nancy Missimi), lighting by Lee Fiskness, sound by Bob Gilmartin and projections (something different in itself) by Anthony Churchill. The props, as always are handled by Sally Weiss.

Marriott Theater in Lincolnshire - Thanks again for taking this step forward to bring something a little more powerful to the Northern suburbs. Based on the quality of what this production is, I would love to see you continue doing something like this every year. Keep up the fine shows that are part of your regular subscription and add something spicy like this to bring you new audiences and some may even stick around for the “other shows”. At the same time, maybe some of the old standby audiences will want to leap forward into today’s world and try the new as well.

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