Signs of Spring

April 16, 2012.By Morgan Halaska, Twin Cities Metro Magazine.

Theater Latté Da takes on "Spring Awakening," bringing an intimate story to an intimate stage.

Even before I went to Saturday night’s performance of Spring Awakening at the Rarig Center’s Stoll Trust Theatre, I counted myself as a fan.

My enthusiasm came from seeing a traveling production of the Broadway show two years ago, in Chicago. The build up left me worried that I would be disappointed. No reason. I walked out of the theater falling in love with the edgy and erotic musical all over again.

To catch you up: Spring Awakening is a rock musical, featuring music by Duncan Sheik and lyrics by Steven Sater. It is the very definition of edgy (prudes, consider this your fair warning). Adapted from the 1892 German play by Frank Wedekind, the drama emerges from a group of angst-ridden teens dealing with their sexuality and a host of other touchy issues. Hormones (“Touch Me”), academic failure (“And Then There Were None”), suicide (“Don’t Do Sadness), and incest (“The Dark I Know Well”) are all represented here.

Wedekind’s take on these subjects was just edgy enough to generate a bit of controversy when he sought a publisher for his risqué story. The musical carries a disclaimer – yes, this show contains “nudity, sexual content, and adult situations” – but has received a much warmer welcome.

Seeing Theater Latté Da and the University of Minnesota’s Department of Theater Arts and Dance take on this bold story is a treat. Director Peter Rothstein’s ability to harness the energy of his cast and showcase their sheer talent is astounding. It was also great to see a production of this caliber at the Stoll—on the smaller side for such a big production, but large enough to not feel cramped (the use of the theater and the integration into the audience is pretty darn exciting). This intimacy helps make “The Bitch of Living,” “My Junk,” and “Totally Fucked,” where Carl Fink’s choreography are in full effect.” the strongest numbers.

The cast (both amateur and professional) is, in a word, phenomenal. Cat Brindisi and David Darrow have the chemistry and vocals that their roles as Wendla and Melchior demand. And while Darrow looks more like a Mortiz (played by Tyler Michaels, who incidentally looks like a Melchior), both male leads own their roles and musical numbers with absolute command. Larissa Gritti (Ilse) and Grant Sorenson (Hanschen) were among two of my favorites, and Michelle Barber and James Detmar are downright impressive in their versatility as the Adult Woman and Adult Man.

The band also plays a crucial role here. Instead of being tucked away in a pit, the electric guitar, keyboard, and cello are suspended above the play’s action. Their mixing of rock and classic sounds as a perfect accompaniment to this show.

So, consider my praises sung and see Spring Awakening while you can.