Sep 24, 2009

[Theater] Spring Awakening (Atlantis Productions)

Spring Awakening ManilaAtlantis Productions has been bringing major Broadway productions to the local stage for ten years now, and theater fans like myself remain highly thankful and grateful that they continue to do so. Sure, it'll cost a lot to import any show and it's an even greater challenge to try and recapture the same level of intensity seen with the original cast and production crew, but they do fairly well. We've been following Atlantis Productions since they first brought RENT here and it's been an interesting ride since then.

Let's face it - no matter how many time one listens to the official Broadway soundtracks or reads reviews, synopses and even Wikipedia articles about the plays, it never truly captures the true essence of the performance. This applies even for those with highly vivid imaginations. Even if the story makes sense to you more or less, there's nothing like that defining moment when you sit down in that theater, the curtain goes up and the show begins and them BAM! - it hits you! It's only then that you'll truly understand and appreciate what the show is all about.

The Manila production of Spring Awakening follows the original story of young students in 1891 Germany dealing with the usual hormonal changes of puberty, the pressures of school life and the urge to challenge all forms of authority and question all knowledge given to them. Luckily, my friend was able to get tickets for me and my partner to watch the preview performance ahead of everyone else. Sweet!

At the center of the story are three of the kids - Wendla (Kelly Lati), a young girl frustrated that her mother refuses to tell her everything there is to know about life and growing up - pretty much the birds and the bees story. Then there's Moritz (Nicco Manalo), a struggling student at a private boy's school who find himself distracted with dreams and visions of women's legs and then some. His classmate and friend is Melchior (Joaquin Valdes), who eventually becomes Wendla's love interest. Melchior is quite the intellectual rebel and his views are very different from the rest of his hormone-driven classmates and he goes on to try and educate his fellows along with Moritz.

Spring AwakeningImage via Wikipedia

The music was composed by Duncan Sheik so it of course it was very strong. The singing in the local production was pretty good from a technical perspective and even for those moments of high energy, the voices were not overpowered by the music being played by the band, which I've seen happen from time to time in local productions. Also, the lighting sequences certainly were well planned and they came up with some great images once executed. For the preview night, execution was the challenge though and there were many instances when the lights were a tad late or came from odd angles that formed unusual shadows (watch out for the hanging lampshades!)

In general though, there was a bit of a lack of energy, passion and drive in many of the Act I numbers, even for dynamic songs like The Bitch of Living. The sang the right notes and did the right steps but they didn't quite consistently capture the right emotions or even convey the frustrations and anguish that the stomping was all about. This may be attributed to this being one of their first performances in front of a relatively large audience and the whole sense of nervousness that comes with such productions. It's not a show-stopping deficiency - they had clearly recovered by Act II with Totally Fucked as their climax piece. One can hope that in the weeks to come they'll shake things off and pull off much more powerful performances in the weeks to come. It may take a bit more time, but they'll get there, that much I believe.

Of course, I'm required to warn you parents out there that this IS a coming-of-age story, which means sexual themes, suggestive conversation and potentially Joaquin Valdes' butt, depending on where you sit in the theater (go for Orchestra Right if you're interested). This is definitely not meant for kids to watch alone and some talking will be needed after the show.

Overall, it's a great production and certainly worth seeing. You can contact a ticket seller directly based on the official list or you can try your luck over at Ticket World for the limited shows that they handle.

The Manila production of Spring Awakening gets 4 multi-purpose benches out of a possible 5.

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