Spring Awakening – rock musical– music by Duncan Sheik and book and lyrics by Steven Sater

Presented by: LAMTA (Luitingh Alexander Musical Theatre Academy
Where: Theatre on the Bay, Camps Bay
When: November 24 to December 3, 2023
Direction: Sylavaine Strike
Design: Niall Griffin
Musical direction: Amy Campbell and Anton Luitingh
Choreography: Duane Alexander, Anna Olivier and Naoline Quinzin
Booking: Webtickets or the Theatre on the Bay box office on 021 438

Spring Awakening is an impressive production by LAMTA (Luitingh Alexander Musical Theatre Academy), directed by Sylvaine Strike. This is LAMTA’s final production for the year. This coming-of-age rock musical provides a wonderful canvas to showcase the talents of the young students as triple threats – acting, singing and dancing.

The award winning and acclaimed musical (it received eight Tony Awards in 2007 including Best Musical) is dark and gripping as it grapples with a host of issues – including teen desire, parental and societal repression, teen sexuality, abortion, rape, suicide, abuse, teen pregnancy and ignorance of about sex.

The controversial musical does not gloss over uncomfortable questions and issues and in this edgy production, the narrative is heighted by the stunning design by Niall Griffin (set, costumes lighting) which frames the angst so beautifully. The stage platform is raked and this tilt charges the sense of unease and instability of the space that the young characters navigate. The jagged black shutters/slats amplify the sense of the youngsters being constrained and hemmed in a prison like space – emotionally and physically.  The muted palette is lit by flashes of light (I love the lantern candles) – exquisitely rendered gradations of light and shade- revealing and concealing.

Spring Awakening (music by Duncan Sheik and book and lyrics by Steven Sater) is based on the play by Frank Wedekind, first performed in 1906, in Germany. The play was controversial in Wedekind’s day and in 2023, it still pings in relation to repression – physically and emotionally and particularly how young people must navigate and find themselves as individuals. We see a cohort of young students on a voyage of discovery of their identities and passions, with the pressures of parentals and society. The narrative is set around about 1895 but repressions remain sadly in our times. Many young people lack freedoms and the opportunity for awakenings. This is textured beautifully in this production by director Sylvaine Strike working with the LAMTA students and the two “adult” actors as various men and women protagonists (Francis Chouler and Natalie Robbie) and recent LAMTA students.

I was bowled over by the movement direction ad choreography (Duane Alexander supervising LAMTA graduates Anna Olivier and Naoline Quinzin). It is not merely dance but how the company moves as a body across the stage space. They are tethered to their parents and society. There is a palpable need to break free and transcend their situations. The visual narrative is beautifully and tenderly conveyed with a poignant thrust. Strike’s facility with clowning and physical theatre is evidenced in her direction.

The singing is beautiful and the principals and ensemble work seamlessly together- wondrous voices and singing. It is a dark and intense story, which is embedded with fear, terrors and apprehension. The angst and anxiety is heightened by the soundscape, the drip drip of water (like being in a prison and being tortured) and the thrum of drumbeats. Ultimately though, there is a transfiguration of the tragedy inherent in the story and hopefulness peeks through.  We may live in an uncertain present and future, but the challenge is what we do with now; how we live our lives: From Spring Awakening- a narrative spoiler alert – so stop if you don’t want to know: “Think of the future as a pail of whole milk. One man sweats and stirs-churning … But, me, well, I’m like a pussycat, just skim off the cream…”  Here is to skimming off the cream – no matter the circumstances.

Bravo to LAMTA, the young company, the older contingent of performers, the extraordinary director Sylvaine Strike and the creative team. This production of Spring Awakening is excellent – what a way to wrap up the year for LAMTA.

Spring Awakening: LAMTA, Cape Town’s production, directed by Sylvaine Strike. In the pic – Scarlett Pay as Wendla and Dylan Janse van Rensburg as Melchior. Supplied.

✳ Featured image: Johnathan Conrad as Moritz Stiefel in Spring Awakening, presented by LAMTA, Cape Town, November 24 to December 3, 2023.