by Lorie Lewis Ham
Posting our Local Live a day early so it doesn’t get lost in the July 4 holiday celebrations! Check out video interviews with some of the Spring Awakening cast & the director Sklyer Gray at the end of this review.
This past weekend the first of several Valley Premieres of Tony Award winning musicals coming to the area this summer hit the Fresno Memorial Auditorium Stage. Spring Awakening, presented by The Underground @ CMT, opened to enthusiastic crowds and some local criticism for its content.
Set against the backdrop of a repressive and provincial late 19th century Germany, Spring Awakening tells the timeless story of teenage self-discovery and budding sexuality as seen through the eyes of three very different teenagers, and what can happen when adults try to shelter their children from reality. The thinker of the group, Melchoir Gabor (played by Ben McNamara), has rejected the over protected world the adults are trying to keep them in and on his own has discovered the realities of life and sex. Moritz Stieffel (played by Cody Bianchi) is a struggling student and best friend of Melchoir who wants to know more, yet doesn’t at the same time. Wendla Bergman (played by Genevieve Becker) is an innocent young girl who begs her mother to tell her the truth about where babies come from–to no avail and with dire consequences.
Things begin to unravel as Melchoir shares the truth about sex with Moritz, Moritz feels he has failed at life, and Melchoir and Wendla give in to feelings and longings neither are really prepared to deal with. The musical also deals with sex and physical abuse, adults who abuse their power in other ways, and other teens struggling to understand their changing bodies with no one to help them. The result of all of this is tragic and powerful, but there are some funny moments along the way. The message here to parents is that over sheltering our children can often lead to tragedy. I can attest to this from my own teen years and have worked to not do so with my own children.
A rock musical, the songs in Spring Awakening are powerful, beautiful and sad and the performances were outstanding! The role of Moritz is double cast—Cody did a wonderful job when we saw it, and his heart wrenching song “Don’t Do Sadness” was my daughter’s favorite. The beautiful and sad “Left Behind”, featuring Melchoir, was one of my own favorites. And the closing song, “Song of Purple Summer”, spoke of new hope after the spring of awakening. Other faces on stage that were familiar to us were Daniel Hernandez, Brandon Delsid from Basically Brandon, Ashley Taylor and Dominic Griljava—had no idea you had such an incredible voice Dominic! Everyone did an awesome job and kudos also go out to director Skyler Gray, Musical Director Anthony Taylor, Vocal Coach Terry Lewis and the crew who put together the amazing set.
For me this was bittersweet, being the last time I will see one of our favorites, Ben McNamara, on a Fresno stage before he leaves to attend PCPA. Ben’s portrayal of Melchoir was powerful. The entire cast did an incredible job. While I can see where the controversy comes from and honestly had moments where I was uncomfortable as well, (this is not a show to take the entire family to as there is obviously sexual content, brief nudity, and some strong language) to miss this show because of that would be a shame. Spring Awakening is not only beautiful musically, but it is a moving and powerful show that makes you think and feel. What more can anyone ask for?
If I could, I’d go back every night! Don’t miss your chance to see this Tony Award winning show being presented in Fresno at the Fresno Memorial Auditorium, 2425 Fresno Street, for one more weekend by The Underground @ CMT in Fresno. Tickets are $16 and $20 and may be purchased at www.cmtworks.org or by calling (866)-973-9610. If you get the chance, get on stage seating for an extra special experience.
Interview with show director Skyler Gray:
Interview with cast members Daniel Hernandez & Brandon Delsid:
Interview with cast member Ben McNarama:
Check out other local theatre videos on KRL’s YouTube channel Local Theatre playlist and check out our series of videos following a Visalia production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee from beginning to end!
All but one of the photos in this article were provided by Corey Ralston of Corey Ralston Photography.