Friday, June 13, 2014

Spring Awakening

Midvale Main Street Theatre is great at doing theatre for young people, by young people. It's an amazing brand and Tammy Jackson Ross, who had been a business manager for over 25 years, is amazing at creating a brand and honoring the customers who specifically seek for that brand that only she can give them. With each production, the brand Midvale Main Street Theatre increases in its power and relevance to the talented young artists in Utah. They are unafraid of difficult theatre. They are unafraid of shock and awe. They are unafraid of provocative. (See NTN, Avenue Q, RENT)

It seems to me, most edgy theatre in Salt Lake is done with a professional edge by out of towners here to show regular old Utah the way. And yet, I'm seeing a slew of theatres no longer afraid to put thoughtprovoking new plays on their season. Lately, I've seen a wealth of great theatre from a variety of up and coming companies, determined to create brave new theatre in Utah. 

Last night, I enjoyed the opening night production of Midvale Main Street Theatre's Spring Awakening. It was Cassidy Ross's directorial debut. (She's worked behind the scenes for years, and directed two sold out runs of children's theatre performances last year--but this was her first go at helming a main stage production.) The show is about the sexual awakening of the youth in 1880's Germany. Supported by an amazing production team, (Aaron Ford: choreographer, Sean McLaughlin: Set Designer, Jennifer Hairr: Lighting Designer, Ryan Fallis: Graphic Design and Sound Tech, Taylor Erickson: Assistant Director, Austin Heaton: Stage Manager, and Jason Campbell: Music Director)--the show is a force. The energy of the movement--the mesmerizing harmonies--the jolting rock star tones.

Leo Cody Jensen leads the ensemble through their Spring Awakening as these teenagers ask questions and work their through the mysteries of their changing desires. I won't talk about the storyline. I went into the show a Spring Awakening virgin. I knew it was raunchy and unapologetic. And it was. The youth of the actors and production staff gave vigor to the raunchier moments--but one thing that age teaches is to value the quieter moments during times of tumult. The production seemed to skip over the less titillating moments. I wanted a touch more gravity in the small exchanges.

Erica Renee Smith found a lovely place between girl and woman. She was unafraid of the joy of both. Carolyn Crow's Marta was afraid of everything. And Allie Duke's Ilse gave up any semblance of fear and shame. I found myself wondering what my life would be like if I could just let go of society and join an artist's colony myself.

Thomas Kulkus was hilarious and his voice ripped up Duncan Sheik's melodies. Terry Lee McGriff had my favorite line in the show. Brock Dalgliesh resembled a cat holding a stick of dynamite. His frenetic passion made me want to give him a hug and a warm cup of chamomile tea.  Jim Dale mastered several different parts, lending voice to the patriarch and Kelsey Lyn Hoskins' matriarch was unnerving.

The whole ensemble roared through the production with energy and charisma.

The folks sitting to my left were uncomfortable during a few of the racy bits. They would start talking to each other or looking at their candy. And you are welcome to look right into your bag of popcorn if you like.

The show isn't for everyone. (Rated R) But if you're uncomfortable with lying to children about sex, or if you want to hear someone's unapologetic story about what it feels like to be a teenager awakening inside themselves--then come and enjoy Spring Awakening. It might not be your story--but it will remind you of your story and help you to love that part of your soul more than might have when you needed to love that part of your soul. However you choose to live, letting go of the shame of humanity is a truth I can support.

The show runs June 12-June 28 Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7pm. Don't worry about getting dinner as they serve delicious food at the concenssions, and each seat is in front of a table top to make viewing and eating comfortable for everyone.

For more information on showtimes--visit

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