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Not your father's Marriott Theatre for 'Spring Awakening'

22-Jan-2016
Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune

As if in the proto-punk fever dreams of the youth of Frank Wedekind's "Spring Awakening," the musicians of the Marriott Theatre finally have been sprung from their glass-enclosed box. Like fliers who've reached 30,000 feet, they're now free to move about the theater.

But this January experiment in the short-run, contemporary musical really is different — the lack of the subscription audience has meant that one seating section of this 900-seat theater in the round could be claimed as an artistic playing space, allowing for the first true backdrop (live, interactive and projectable) that anyone ever has seen at the Marriott, not to mention a new three-quarter staging configuration that opens up all kinds of possibilities.

So good for Aaron Thielen, the director and choreographer of this first Marriott production of the 2006 Broadway musical adaptation (with music by Duncan Sheik and book and lyrics by Steven Sater), and the man who pushed for this project. "Spring Awakening" is hardly radical fare on today's Broadway, and after I wrote a column calling it edgy and dangerous for the Marriott, I was besieged with correspondence from subscribers of a certain age who did not like to be stereotyped as always preferring "Hello Dolly." So stipulated. Regrets. I think "Spring Awakening" will do well in Lincolnshire. If you're wondering if this is for you, know there is sexual content but also that the Sater score is one of the best Broadway song-suites of the past decade.

...the ensemble is stacked with huge talent, among both men and women, and there are many things to like — most notably, for me, Barker's quite haunting performance as Moritz, a piece of acting that consistently drew you closer, or around the corner... The last moments are quite lovely.

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