AISLE SAY  Toronto


Written by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater
Directed by Directed by Michael Mayer
Canon Theatre
Playing through April 19th.  244 Victoria Street
(416) 872-1212

Reviewed by Robin Breon

This smart touring production that set down in Toronto for a few weeks at the Canon Theatre is certainly worth a visit. Based on the late 19th century German play by Franz Wedekind,  it was first produced in 1906 and was soon censored and banned because of its sexually explicit references and generally nihilist representations of repressed adolescent youth. It’s the kind of thing that the German literary critic and essayist, Walter Benjamin, and his precocious group of friends were reading and discussing in their own adolescence about 5 years after the play premiered in a Berlin production directed by Max Reinhardt.

Spring Awakening (the musical) is brought up to date with a rock score that, although somewhat monotone in its overall composition, does have some brilliant resonance—my personal favorite being a number entitled, "Totally Fucked", which is performed by the entire ensemble.

I had some difficulty with the overall directorial style of the show that seemed to want our emotional sympathy at some points while holding us at arm’s length camp the next. This may be because they just didn’t trust the demands of the material enough to think that the huge leaps of passion and youthful angst could be digested and taken seriously by a modern audience out for a night of entertainment.

Despite this, the performances by Matt Doyle and Christy Altomare (as Melchior and Wendla) portray the delicate encounter of first time sexual passion with tenderness as well as urgency. Two additional performances worth celebrating are Steffi D in the kind of “angel in the morning” role of Ilse, and the doomed Moritz  (hyper-kinetic one moment and morose the next) played by Blake Bashoff.

Also excellent back-up by the eight piece band conducted by Jared Stein who also accompanied on keyboard.

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