Monday, October 15, 2012

Spring's Awakening

October 15, 2012

Spring's Awakening
, Off-Broadway at The TBG Theatre, located at 312 W. 36th Street (just west of 8th Avenue), a Marvell Rep production. Tickets only $25, and it runs through November 4th. 

Starring: Giuseppe Bausilio (Billy in Billy Elliot), Lizzy DeClement, and Dalton Harrod, and featuring an incredibly talented supporting cast lead most notably by Steven Braunstein, Ethan Navarro, and Anne Newhall

Some of you will say that rape, abortion, masturbation, suicide, teen gay romance, sadomasochism, atheism, and circle jerks aren't your thing.  I understand.  But you know what is one of my...things?  Great acting.  So if seeing absolutely fantastic, amazing, award-worthy acting is, you know, your thing?  Then you must, must, must see this beautiful show.

Last night, I attended the Opening Night performance, and I have to tell you, I was completely blown away at the talent up on stage.  Imagine if there was a machine that could locate and collect the best teen actors from around the world and put them all together in one show in New York City.  That's what seems to have happened.  The subject matter is intense.  Like, really, really powerful stuff.  And yet these kids show up, scene after scene, and they act with a passion that's rare in theatre.  They act their hearts out on stage as if there's a camera on their face and a Tony waiting for them in the wings.

Giuseppe Bausilio, most recently on Broadway in the title role of Billy Elliot The Musical, plays Melchior Gabor, the sad, confused, angst-ridden central figure in this story of kids being kids in a time in their lives when the adult in them is aching to get out, or at least just be found.  Melchior, influenced by his mother's open-minded upbringing, doesn't understand why the facts of life should be hidden at all, why everyone can't be who they were made to be.  He is the champion of free thinking, even though as the story progresses, this reality is revealed to be more complex than he at first realized.  Giuseppe, well known to many as one of, if not the best ballet dancers of his age, proves his acting chops are top-notch too.  Is there anything he can't do?!  His presence on stage is entrancing, his performance both gripping and sad, and he makes us feel all the confusion and intensity along with him.  Bravo to this young master of so many crafts and talents for pulling off such a complex, dark and brooding role!

Lizzy DeClement plays Wendla Bergmann, a 14-year-old girl aching to truly experience life and all its truths and pains.  She begs to understand everything, and sees in Melchior a boy who cannot only teach her through words, but also through actions.  Yet her eagerness is also her ultimate demise, as her passions and curiosity bring her everything she always wanted and even some of the things she didn't want all at once.  Lizzy DeClement is an extremely gifted young actress, and you are in a privileged position getting to sit there and watch her talk through her character's development and confusion.  She has a magic in her face and in her performance through and through, and it's clear she is destined for greatness on the Great White Way!

Rounding out the leads is one of those performers who brings his gifted acting to you subtly at first before springing on you with unmatched gusto and energy.  Dalton Harrod as Moritz Stiefel is equal to the best on Broadway and film.  He speaks with a haunting passion ready to let loose like a monster, and wrestles with his inner demons with a frightful power not of this world.  The role is built to be completely embodied, and not taken on by the faint of heart, which proves Dalton Harrod is a true star.  One can only imagine how difficult it is to step into that role day in and day out, lose yourself and your sanity, and still maintain a real life outside of the part.  He does an absolutely incredible job, and his performance is one for the ages!

In featured roles right up there with these powerhouses are three more stars that make this show absolutely rock.  As Mrs. Bergmann (Wendla's mother), Anne Newhall is exquisite in her performance.  She is a really wonderful actress, and brings the audience along with her with each smile, each tear, and even each thought through her head.  We love her, we ache for her, we understand her.  And as two of Melchior's friends who are secretly in love with one another, Steven Braunstein (Hanschen Rilow) and Ethan Navarro (Ernst) are as loving a couple as you will see in any storybook romance past or present.  Their pure affection and beautiful love story is a secret affair they both assume cannot carry over to their future, adult lives, but it is an electrifying romance of youth and passion performed gorgeously.  Not one second of their performance as lovers feels artificial.  And you can't help but be, how can I say, tickled to the bone by Braunstein's sexual soliloquy elsewhere.  It's a scene you will not soon forget!

The entire cast is just fantastic, especially the ensemble of young men and women playing the teenagers, who are all at or right around the actual age of their characters.  This show is only running until November 4th, so do yourself a huge favor and buy your tickets here right now.

Sean Patrick Brennan