THE REVIEWS ARE IN FOR SPRING AWAKENING!
We’re very sad that SPRING AWAKENING has now come to an end after the most phenomenal 6 months! Sending the biggest THANK YOU possible to the Palace Theatre for having us and to every single one of you who came to see us and for giving us your continuous support! We even received a good luck message from the cast of West End’s Hamilton! The feedback we were given was completely overwhelming and it was incredible to see that the cast and creatives hard work had paid off! Be sure to let us know your thoughts and leave us a review on LODS facebook page. Here are a few reviews below…
I have said before how LODS appear to be the society that aren’t afraid to push boundaries and try put on shows other groups may shy away from. Spring Awakening is a hard-hitting, in-your-face musical that deals with sensitive issues and has a score that ranges from beautiful, haunting (traditional) ballads to modern sounding alternative rock pieces. You need a strong cast, with strong voices. As a show, it is a brave choice for any society, yet I was confident that LODS would do a good job, and I was not wrong.
From entering the auditorium to see the amazing set and the, I assume, intentionally uncomfortable cast entrances, right through to The Song of Purple Summer, I was captivated, held entranced by the story, so well portrayed.
Every single member of the cast played their roles / various roles, expertly.
James Cohen’s Melchior was a joy to watch. His air of confidence never touched on cockiness and played so well against the pure innocence portrayed by Eva Tobin as Wendla. Matthew Wallace’s Moritz was captivating. The tense, twitching nature of the character must have been exhausting to play.
All of the ‘children’ also added their individual truths to the story – I particularly enjoyed Rosie Munns’ portrayal of Isle, Sam Blyth’s playing of Hanschen and Jason Weir’s Ernst.
The ‘adults’ played their roles expertly too.
One stand out scene for me was Mortiz’s funeral – I was welling up during this – it was so well acted by every member of the cast.
The singing, without exception, was truly amazing – I would go so far as to say flawless. I cannot imagine the amount of work the cast and Musical Director, Rachel Plunkett, must have put in to make this happen.
I know that it is often the rock numbers that steal the show for many people – the contrast of the modern style against the setting in late 1800s – but for me it was the ballads that stood out. Maybe I am too much of a traditionalist.
However the stand out number, which emphasised the immense talent of the group, was The Song of Purple Summer. I was sat with my mouth literally open at the beautiful sounds that were coming from the stage. I have never really understood why the cast come on in modern clothing for this number, but it is as it is and it did not detract in this production due to the talent on stage.
It has been said before and will, no doubt, be said again; if you want West End quality performances, LODS is not going to disappoint.
Well done to the cast, creative team and crew of this amazing show.
LODS’s next production si to be All Shook up in May 2019.
When your mum asks you what your latest show review is about, and you answer, “German teenagers in the late 19th Century discovering their bodies and having sex, set to a rock music score”, it can be met with a confusing look. But this, in a nutshell, is what Spring Awakening is. Based on a play written in 1891 (so controversial it was banned in Germany), the musical adaptation of the show debuted on Broadway in 2006.
I’d seen the show once before, many years ago, and had hazy memories of simulated sex on stage and the whole thing being rather edgy. But what I didn’t remember was the humour, warmth, depth and emotion of the story and the songs.
Several tales are intertwined throughout the show. Headstrong Melchior Gabor crosses paths with innocent Wendla Bergmann, who is completely naïve to the ways of conception (because her mother refuses to enlighten her), so accidently ends up pregnant when the two have sex. Then there is troubled and intense Moritz Stiefel, who is under intense pressure from his father to succeed at school, and also starts experiencing arousing dreams, which just confuse and scare him further. A homosexual kiss, a tale of fatherly abuse and a whole lot of angst are just some more elements that make up the show.
I was impressed from the minute I took my seat. I’ve been to the Palace Theatre many times, but have never seen a set quite like this one. Any hint of a curtain was gone, and the blackboard-style backdrop reached high into the rafters and into the wings. The cast were sat on stage throughout, which initially I wasn’t quite sure about, but grew to appreciate. There was a separate wooden stage-within-a-stage in the middle of the floor, meaning you could easily focus on the action. In all honesty, the set wouldn’t have looked out of place on a West End stage, so huge credit to Sam Blyth, who also appeared in the show, for its creation.
Now usually, I like a musical whose songs fit with the style of the show. I’m probably one of the only people I know who didn’t love The Greatest Showman (I know, sorry!), because I just couldn’t get on board with modern music set against a 19th Century backdrop. Quite frankly, it usually just annoys me. But with Spring Awakening, I actually quite liked it. The girls sang opening number Mama Who Bore Me looking like a bad-ass girl group and when the boys’ turn came, The Bitch of Living was performed like Green Day on stage at Wembley, complete with jumping on the set and stamping feet. The handheld mics used for numbers like this added to the contrast between old and new, however I think in a couple of numbers later in the show, they were a bit of a distraction, especially when a mic stand was used too. It felt like a kind of barrier between the audience and the character, and at points, I wished they would rely on the head mics they were wearing insread.
The sound that this LODS’ cast produced was amazing. There wasn’t one weak soloist amongst the cast, and Eva Tobin (Wendla) had a particularly beautiful voice. I also really like Matthew Wallace’s voice (Moritz), but could only really hear the beauty of it once he put his mic down and stopped being so angry. Moritz’s story is a sad one (I won’t give it away by telling you what happens) but in moving number Those You’ve Known, you could suddenly hear its purity. And congratulations to MD Rachael Plunkett for getting a spine-tingling, harmonious sound out of the entire cast in finale number The Song of Purple Summer, which gave me goose bumps.
The lighting particularly stood out to me as being very creative in this show, as it included different coloured strip lights across the stage and bare bulbs hanging from the ceiling. I also liked the use of minimal props, like school chairs being used as gravestones. The atmosphere of the show was created well and you could tell it had been thought about carefully.
LODS are a group local to me and this is the first show I’ve reviewed in my home county. It’s easy to get carried away in the excitement of reviewing London shows, but people must remember that amateur groups are often not far away in quality from these. LODS’ Spring Awakening is a brilliant example of a professional-standard amateur group, who even on their opening night, absolutely smashed the performance. Well done to all.
IN an era of safe format and revival musicals, Spring Awakening is a unique phenomenon, and it arrives in Southend in a uniquely phenomenal production by LODS.
The show is a Tony and Olivier award winner, but it only achieved a short West End run, and then disappeared into the cellar reserved for great but unseen and unsung musicals. Proof once again that there is no justice in the land of song and dance.
Local audiences who have now had the good luck to experience Spring Awakening will give a standing ovation to director Andrew Seal, for his rescue job, and for a staging that is 5-star in every department.
Unique’s the word. Spring Awakening belongs to no familiar genre, although its subject matter makes it perhaps a very distant cousin to a shows like Rent, or even West Side Story, which are based on the tribulations of youth.
Shakespeare discovered youth angst as a dramatic subject (in Romeo and Juliet), but it was then ignored for 300 years until the German playwright, Frank Wedekind, penned the play on which the current show is based.
Spring Awakening shocked European society to the depths of its hidebound soul, and was promptly banned. Amazingly, this campaigning narrative, written and first staged when Queen Victoria was on the throne, still carries the power to shock, today.
Set in a rigid German community that is hellbent on resistance to the new ideas sweeping Europe (represented by Freud, Ibsen, Darwin, Marx, and indeed Wedekind himself). Spring Awakening focuses on a group of young people who take the brunt of these reactionary attitudes. Spoiler alert: the consequences include child suicide and death by abortion, though even these are viewed by the adults as all the kids’ fault.
The opening scene brilliantly dramatises this tension, as the sweet-natured Wendla (Eva Tobin) pleads with her mother to explain “how babies are made”. Shocked and revolted, the mother covers Wendla’s head with a cloth, and then mouths empty rubbish about loving one’s husband. The consequences of this squeamishness prove catastrophic.
Meanwhile, Wendla’s intellectually brilliant pal Melchior is starting to question and even confront his parents and teachers, while the academically challenged Moritz disintegrates under the weight of expectations from the intransigent older generation.
Be aware! – this may sound a bit depressing, but it ain’t. Spring Awakening has two vast assets which ensure, despite the tragedy portrayed, that you actually leave the theatre with a smile on your face.
One is the raw energy of a show that is dynamised by its passionate young cast. More of that in a moment.
The other is the music. It is worth a second trip to the show just to focus on Duncan Sheik’s score. It may sound like a contradiction in terms, but this is essentially a restrained rock score. It discreetly supports the singers, and deepens the meaning of the lyrics, while never showing off. The honesty of the music ensures that the final big number, The Song of Purple Summer, is utterly convincing as an expression of hope for the future.
In contrast with the stiff, even stilted 19th century period language in which the characters are forced to communicate, the lyrics are streetwise and modern, liberally laced with the f-word and the a(rse) word. They signal how the world of youth will change, despite the rearguard action by all those stupid adults.
This is a young person’s show. Such illustrious previous-generation LODS performers as Helen Sharpe and Peter Brown give background support, playing representatives of the the bonehead older generation, the show belongs to the kids.
And what a superb job they make of it, both vocally and in their characterisations. James Cohen gives his character an almost Shakespearian heroic status as the incipient rebel Melchior, whose keen intelligence can pierce right through all the cant of the society in which he is being raised.
In a beautifully considered and fully rounded performance, Eva Tobin brings tenderness and vulnerability to the role of Wendla. Her final scene, at the door of the abortion clinic, is one of the most gutting stage exits I have seen for a long time. Matthew Wallace is also marvellous as Moritz, tortured by a puberty that he does not understand, and battered by the cruelties of the education system.
The director, Drew Seal, along with choreographer Laura Hurrell and lighting designer Joshua Blows, combine to give Spring Awakening the energy and visual inventiveness that it deserves, and the amazing set – at first, a bit mysterious, but gradually becoming more potent as the show progresses – deserves to be preserved for future generations in Southend Central Museum. Another credit must also go to Rachael Plunkett as MD who has managed to produce some fabulous vocals and harmonies from the cast as well as the musicians in the pit.
Spring Awakening provides yet another reason to give thanks to LODS. Once again, LODS has demolished the word “amateur”, depriving it of all validity. This is a show that any professional company would boast about. It displays a boldness of vision and a willingness to take risks, artistic and financial, that puts the big professionals to shame. With Spring Awakening, LODS has excavated an overlooked gem, and given it a production that allows all 24 carats of the gem to sparkle.
I think it was a very brave decision for LODS to undertake this production. It has a serious and compelling message for our society and, although set in the 1890s, it still has a lot of resonance for today’s audiences. Artistically it was a good choice, but I suspect that it may not have been such a good choice from a business perspective. Personally, I like to be entertained when I go to the theatre, so this production was always going to be one that I would find difficult to watch.
However, there is no doubt about the sincerity and passion of the cast, particularly the younger members for whom the content must be important. Understanding the attitude of society in 1891 is crucial to appreciating the production. The, largely, older audience at this performance did seem to understand the underlying meaning in the text. Again, I found it a bit distasteful, but I completely appreciate the effectiveness of the actors’ performances.
The two young leads, Eva Tobin (Wendla) and James Cohen (Melchior) were very good, Eva, in particular, has a lovely voice which she used to great effect. James produced good a characterisation, giving Melchior just the right amount of angst. Matthew Wallace portrayed Moritz extremely well. His body language fully supported the character and we were in no doubt about his anxiety and shame at his adolescent thoughts.
The remainder of the young Principals all had their characters well defined, we quickly understood each one’s behaviour patterns. It is a large cast of young Principals and each of them had a recognisable character. LODS has an extremely talented group of performers for these roles.
The ‘adults’ were also strong performers, making this a very powerful production. Having all the cast on stage for virtually the whole performance may have been a gamble on Director, Andrew Seal’s part, but it paid off. The singing, as we have come to expect, from LODS, was outstanding and congratulations are due to MD Rachael Plunkett. Choreographer Laura Hurrell had quite a challenge as a lot of the ‘choreography’ was in hand movements and spatial transitions. The cast had it to a fine art, beautifully timed and completely in sync.
The standing set was impressive, and the choreographed movement of the chairs and other small props was particularly good, well timed and very well executed. Costumes were appropriate although one or two did not work as well as the rest. Lighting was exceptional. Well done to the lighting operator, who had the timing of the lighting changes perfectly. The sound of both the band and the artistes was also very well done, accurate and effective.
As I have said at the beginning of this review, I like to be entertained when I go to the theatre, this production made me a little uncomfortable, but I suspect that is exactly what the writers and creators had in mind. The cast deserve a larger audience, than we saw at this performance, as their performances were all strong. But I suspect a lot of other theatre goers would also find this a little too uncomfortable to watch. Maybe in 5 years’ time the content will be more acceptable to the older generation.
I don’t think this will be a show that many societies will take on, unfortunately getting an audience is critical to the continuance of most societies these days.
My thanks to LODS for your hospitality, I am glad I got to see the show.
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