Dylan O’Neill reviews the opening night performance of UCD Musical Society’s production of Spring Awakening. Photo credit: Earl Echivarre.
Set in Germany in the late 19th century, Spring Awakening is the tale of a group of school friends as they discover the difficult transition to adulthood. With themes of abuse, statutory rape, abortion, and suicide, director Oisin Nolan’s vision for the show does not shy away from the controversial subject matter, but rather frames it in an all too honest light.
From the moment the audience enter Astra Hall, the technical beauty of the show can be seen from the lights shining through the stained glass window onstage onto the ivy woven throughout the set.
From the moment the audience enter Astra Hall, the technical beauty of the show can be seen from the lights shining through the stained glass window onstage onto the ivy, woven throughout the set. Musical director, Barry Power, conducted the orchestra and set the scene with the beautiful lullaby opening number “Mama Who Bore Me,” introducing Lisa Lyons as Wendla. From the opening bars of the number, Lyons portrays the character with the innocence and youth of a young person who is untainted by the world around them. However, by the reprise, she along with the other ensemble members, rejoice in the more rebellious upbeat tempo of the song. The mood quickly changes to a mature setting, with spectacular harmonies composed by vocal director, Taylor Fewer, accompanied by the visually wonderful lighting design within the show.
With seamless transitions from each scene, the show progresses to the male ensemble, led by Ruairí Nicholl, as Melchoir in the all-boys school. The synchronised choreography, devised by Nolan, shines through in the teenage angst of the male ensemble to the number “The Bitch of Living.” As Melchoir, Nicholl begins with a timid characterisation, not quite capturing the brooding nature that others have portrayed in the role previously. As the show progresses, however, and especially in the second act, he really comes into his own and delivers a heart-breaking imitation of a young man who is at odds with the world around him. This does not impede his vocal performance, which throughout the show commands the attention of the audience from “All That’s Known” to the final number “Those You’ve Known.”
The ensemble showed a strong presence throughout the performance, utilising every second onstage to its fullest potential.
A special mention goes to Rory Sheehy, for his portrayal of Mortiz. From our first introduction of the character, Sheehy exhibits an honest emotional characterisation which the audience immediately connects with. Although not the main character, the audience follows Sheehy’s tempestuous journey to it’s bitter and tragic end. Always conscious of his demeanour onstage, Sheehy never lets the character slip, even when he is not the focus of the scene.
The ensemble showed a strong presence throughout the performance, utilising every second onstage to its fullest potential. The group numbers added to the religious undertones of the show, while also providing a welcome break to the serious and emotionally deep scenes which precede them. From the vocal solos to the individual secondary characters, the ensemble were overall a strong addition, that complemented the main story.
Spring Awakening runs from the 21st-25th November in Astra Hall, being Nolan’s directorial debut, this is a brilliant way to procrastinate during week 11. Just remember to bring some tissues.