On April 11th MAD soc had the opening night of their third full scale production, this year was the rock musical “Spring Awakening”. The hype for this show was real. MAD soc had been promoting it all throughout the last few months and it paid off. There was a cue into the Aula that almost poured into the St Joseph’s square. Almost a full house for opening night, not a bad start. The show featured a cast of 15 main cast and 7 Chorus. There is no chorus in the original version, they added it in, due to the large number of those that auditioned they wanted to make sure as many could get involved as they could. Note that every member of chorus has a solo line. There was also a large band of guitar, violin, viola, cello, bass and drums (this included members of the Music Soc’s Jazz&Blues band). Musically directed by veteran MAD soc member since their formation in 2014 Ailbhe Kehoe and Choreographed by Ciara Connonlly. Also note that not a single song was left out of this production.
“Spring Awakening” is a rock musical with music by Duncan Sheike and book, lyrics by Steven Sater, based on the German play of the same name from 1891 by Frank Wedekind. The story follows a group of teenagers in school discovering their own sexualities and how their society is repressing this. To just throw out buzz words for the premise, the musical is about a whole mixture of taboo type social issues like Sexual discovery, masturbation, homosexuality, angst, suicide and more! Now the most challenging for this review I admit, is talking about certain scenes without spoiling the show. I admit I had never seen “Spring Awakening” before and so experienced all the twists and turns that goes along with it. What I have decided to do to review these certain scene is to only refer to the song titles of these scenes and what stood out to me.
Opening with the famous “Momma Who Bore Me” which MAD soc released videos of them singing on their fb page prior. Immediately on this opening number, I know this show was going to be something special to see. Building up from the ballad with the lead Laoise Fleming (Wendla Bergmann) then building up the jazzing up beat tempo with the more of the cast. One thing I must comment on, is the stage set up, there is only one. Simply one hard wood stage with two prison like windows. However, with some excellent lighting changes and use of cast members filling different parts of the stage at different times. They were still able to effectively convey different settings up place in time. As well as utilizing every part of the stage including the windows.
The song that most impressed me with this was “My Junk” which had almost the whole cast on stage, but they were all merely singing to illustrate the actions for another Stephen Nolan’s character “Hanschen”. This type of specific directing mixed with the blend of choreography from the cast was masterfully done throughout the whole show but especially on this song. The acting overall was top notch from every member of the cast including the chorus. The leads all gave their all to portraying a mixture of emotions, like sexual frustration. Everyone on stage was in the moment, living and breathing their roles, especially in terms of their physicality. The director Niall O’Riordan stated “ They are walking manifestations of the themes”. This shows especially with the character of Mortiz Stiefel played by Tobias Barry, who was my personal favourite in the whole show. With his body language he captured so much to show his nervousness, frustration (like hiding an awkward boner) and still carry those emotions through his wide singing range. I felt he was a scene stealer to every song his was in. That isn’t to say the other leads didn’t stand out to me too. The leading role of Melchior Gabor played by Declan King, carries the whole story with his acting, especially how he interacts with the other cast mates. You can tell they all worked extensively together. Wendla I felt was the heart of the story and the audience felt for her experiences. Jordan Taylor playing Ernst provided some playful comic relief at times especially in the class room scenes. Craig Bodger, played about 6 roles I believe, and despite having no serious costume changes between accent and body manner was able to accurately convey he was another role.
Other numbers that really made an impact on me were chilling songs like “ The Dark I Know Well” wow that was tense. Or “ The Mirror-Blue Night”. Again the combination of directing with lights and choreography of the cast blended amazingly together in songs like this.
They say sex sells, so I will let you know there is a sex scene, and it was both incredibly sensual and very tasteful. I was most impressed with this scene and I wish I could talk more about it, but I feel like it is the money shot that everyone deserves to see it as it unfolds. The songs “The World of Your Body” Director stated “ is what really reminded me of where the direction should go, and how we can successfully translate the subtleties of the dialogue to the stage” and I must say this shows not only in these songs but in every song.
Another number that we can all relate to as students is the rocking “Totally Fucked” which showed at how much of the audience laughed in this scene. As an audience member one interesting thing I noticed was that there wasn’t applause after every single song. That is not to say some songs didn’t deserve it, it’s that the audience were so focused on the stage that they didn’t want to distract. This an interesting reaction by an audience I felt, so applause didn’t interrupt the performance ever.
To comment on the costumes, it was all very uniform in the totalitarian society it created. O’Riordan stated he took inspiration from George Orwells, novel “1984” to prove that dystopian societies belong not in history, but in a sort of timeless sphere, where the human condition drives such impressions and restrictions”. In relation to this the costume inspiration was “To look like a school kid, but a rich school kid”- JordanTaylor stated. Yet with elements like coloured hair, glasses, pig tails different cast members still showcased a sense of their character’s individuality.
The only critique I have to state, is there were some technical issues between mics, where one cast member is singing before their vocal mic was turned on. However, this is also a compliment to the cast’s abilities, as I was sitting in the middle back row and could still hear them singing. This shows how much they worked on their projection as a cast. This is also a minor thing that will of course improve in the coming two shows.
Not only did they almost fill the Aula Maxima on opening night but they also got a full standing ovation and may I say it was well earned. President of MAD stated. “We have grown by each year, Spring Awakening shows that we had an incredible team, cast behind to create the show”. Even saying as much as it is the best MAD production to date. “Audience and committee laughed and cried” – MAD soc member.
Choreographer stated “The overall show I think was a great success tonight, we just about sold out on our opening night and the cast performed to the fullest and I was incredibly proud of everyone involved.”
I loved this show, and would see it again if I get the time. The songs are now stuck in my head and I have been humming them to myself since. Everything about this show was top notch Broadway type style professional, everyone brought their A Game.
So what are you doing tonight and tomorrow? That assignment due? NO that can wait, go see Spring Awakening you will not be disappointed by this amazing night of Musical theatre by MAD soc.