REVIEW: Spring Awakening at Newcastle Jubilee Theatre
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Young Cast Do It Again
Newcastle Jubilee Theatre
Until Saturday 25th March 2017
Book & lyrics – Steven Sater
Music – Duncan Sheik
Based on the original play by Frank Wedekind
Second Act Theatre return to Newcastle’s Jubilee Theatre with another quality slice of musical theatre. The young cast reassemble to followup their previous successful production of Rent with the musical version of Frank Wedikind’s Spring Awakening.
The Jubilee Theatre is in the centre of St. Nicholas Hospital on Jubilee Road in Gosforth. After turning at the traffic lights into the hospital grounds, drive up to the clock tower. Go straight through reception and turn right at the corridor and that takes you past the café to the theatre. Parking was free where we parked in the hospital grounds after 5pm. Once again, our early arrival enabled us to admire the magnificent proscenium arch with its Art Nouveau Doulton tiles.
The Wedikind play that the musical is based upon has been somewhat controversial resulting in censoring and banning orders since it first hit the stage on in 1906. The themes of childhood in a German town in the late 19thcentury mirror much of what has happened since. Children try to grow up too quick without knowing the full facts whilst the adults complain how life is so different and liberal nowadays compared to their own childhoods.
What helps make the show feel fresh and relevant is the great score which ranges from folk-style to rock standards. The songs help develop the story and cut down on the unnecessary exposition. It does sometimes look a little odd, however, when the ensemble gather and start singing in chorus whilst the principle actors carry out intimate activities in the centre of the stage.
The story follows a group of innocent children that are getting to grips with the change from child to adult. Being the 19th Century, they are educated separately and their families are regular church goers who worry about the neighbours might think.
Wendla Bergmann (Rebecca Charlton) wants her mother (Frances Haigh) to explain the facts of life but her mum fudges it leaving Wendla confused. Her friends, like Martha (Rachael Bell), Ilse (Kiera Falcus), Anna (Ailsa Bennett and Thea (Kristel Buckley) are equally clueless about boys and babies.
Across at the local boys school Moritz (Jonny Hill) is struggling to keep up in class. Fellow classmate Melchior (Ethan Lang) tries to defend him and gets a beating off his teacher for his troubles. After class it appears some lads are more clued up about girls than others.
The story then explores many issues such as corporal punishment/child abuse, rape and suicide along side puberty and surviving school and friendships. Having said that, whilst not trivialising any issue, the show is not that heavy going!
The large, talented ensemble, fill in as classmates and adults. They can sing and when they do so together it creates a wonderful sound. The show features a wonderful group of live musicians under musical director Jenni Watson too.
The set design and projections by Stuart Bagnall both help keep the action flowing without too many unnecessary breaks in the action. Frances Haigh’s costumes looked the part for 19th century Germany.
Director Bobby Trotter and production director Barry Wilmott has produced a slick production that shows it is possible to create a great musical production without resorting to the usual pot boilers. A great cast have come together again to pull off the telling of a 19th century story that feels highly relevant in 2017. The Jubilee Theatre is well worth hunting down this week.
Review by Stephen Oliver.
The show runs from Wednesday 22nd – Saturday 25th March at Jubilee Theatre, St. Nicholas’ Hospital, Jubilee Road, Gosforth
Curtain up at 7pm
Tickets £8/£10 from www.secondacttheatre.com(which also has details about finding the theatre.)