Do you love Rock N Roll? Were you ever a teenager? There is an amazing show at Foothill College right now, and you need to see it. Take your teenager, send your teen with a friend, or go see it yourself.
A year or so ago I saw a bigger budget production of the Rock N Roll musical Spring Awakening. It is an amazing, powerful, emotional show to watch with all the effects of a rock concert. It requires a very talented cast, a knowledgable choreographer, a well rehearsed band and a director capable of putting on a rock concert.
So what do you do when you are a small production company and want to produce a high budget rock and roll musical on a small budget in a tiny theater?
You get together an extremely talented cast and direct the crap out of them.
Spring Awakening is, like Rock N Roll, all about the truth of growing up. It’s about anger, and frustration, and being held to adult standards while being treated like a child. It’s about adult emotions and the inability to let them out. It’s the kind of show that many parents won’t want their teenagers to see, but it is exactly the kind of show that teenagers should see.
And the young adults on stage at Lohman Theater on the Foothill College campus are just rocking the pants off this show.
I was incredibly surprised to see such an amazing production on such a small stage, and most impressed of all with the talented cast. Special notice goes to Ryan Mardesich as Moritz. Mardesich introduces Moritz as an innocent young boy who is just not quite as smart as his classmates, but manages to show the believable growth to a frustrated, hopeless teen who is rightfully angry with the betrayal of all the adults in his world, and the world itself. The words of his songs do not matter; it is the hopeless anger in his eyes that tell his story.
Juliana Lustenader as Wendla is also outstanding. She not only has a beautiful clear voice, but she played innocent, confused Wendla to perfection. Her final, terrified scream made it very clear to the audience exactly where she was going and exactly what was going to happen to her. I still get chills at the memory of that scream.
Two smaller parts, Otto and Ernst, are played by Dillon Mena and Warren Wernick, and they deserve special note for their singing. Wernick has the voice of an angel, and Mena was a true rock star on stage. Holly Smolik and Casey Ellis, as Martha and Ilse, also brought incredible emotion to their parts – and the bruise makeup which Smolik wore deserved an award.
This is a show about teenage frustration, and the frustrations teens deal with now are the same they dealt with in 1891 Germany when this show was written. Sexual frustration and ignorance, child abuse, measuring up to expectations, abortion, suicide, sexual identity… It is a rare adult who would go back to that age. And director Milissa Carey manages to pull those feelings to the surface from her actors. Mardesich was awesome showing the emotion, but Mark Sanders as Georg demanded audience attention with both his character’s sexual frustration and Sanders’ own excellent singing voice. Georg is a smaller part in the show, but Sanders manages to pull all eyes to him with the physicality of his dancing and his comedic expressions when called for.
The 1890s costume design was perfect, the use of lighting design successfully brought tears to our eyes, and the use of stairs and ledges expanded the stage to rock concert size.
Everyone in this show is amazing. There were stand outs, as I’ve credited, but the entire cast is genuinely amazing, and the show is Excellent. If you have never seen Spring Awakening, you should take this opportunity – there might be more flash and/or fireworks at a bigger show, but director Carey manages to give you everything this show has to offer on a smaller scale and you never realize you’re in a small theater. In many ways, I enjoyed this production more than the one with the big budget.
Keep in mind it is a show with “adult” themes, there is very strong language and sexual themes. It is not really fit for preteen and younger, however I believe it is a show that every teenager should see and will appreciate. It is also a show every adult can identify with.