There are a couple of reasons why Jasper cannot review Trustus Theatre's current performance of Spring Awakening -- not the least of which is the fact that the director of the play is dating the daughter of the editor of the magazine. The fact that we can't review the play is unfortunate for a couple of reasons, as well -- not the least of which is the fact that the editor of the magazine doesn't hold anything back, and doesn't care who is dating whom.
That said, there are issues of propriety which we will respect. So, as you read, please keep in mind that this is not a review of Spring Awakening.
What this is is the story of how, thanks to the generosity of Coralee Harris, a dear friend and all around lovely person, whom Tracie Broom most aptly denominated as a bon vivant, this writer and more than one hundred other luckies had the opportunity to enjoy one of the last dress rehearsals of Spring Awakening on Wednesday night last week. It was cozy and friendly -- we sipped champagne, munched on our free popcorn, and simply took in all the youthful angst and profundity that the performance offered.
As frequent theater goers, it is unusual for us to attend a play in Columbia in which we know few of the actors, but this was the case on Wednesday night. Of course, we were very familiar with the work of the director, Chad Henderson, who previously directed such plays as Assassins, Dog Sees God, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and more. And if you live in Columbia and don't know the work of the two people who played the parts of the adult male and female respectively, Christopher Cockrell and Vicky Saye Henderson , I'm sorry, but it's my duty to inform you that your life would be so much better than it is if you did.
The new faces were universally young and unaffected; their voices, powerful and eager. From the closeness of our second row seats we were easily caught up in the almost palpable atmosphere that their combined energies created -- it was like some kind of youthful and frustrated pheromone. We could sense how thrilled and terrified they were to be on the stage, and how delighted they were by their own abilities to overcome their terror and giddiness and give us a professional performance. While I would usually never recommend sitting so closely, this was one time that proximity paid off.
The contrast of the young and eager cast against the laid-back and experienced persona of the band also needs to be noted. With local legends like professor of Jazz, Bert Ligon, and loyal Trustus stage musical director, Tom Beard, on deck, we expected the music to be exceptional, and it was. The gentlemen were joined by Jeremy Polley on guitar, James Gibson on bass, Greg Apple on percussion, Dusan Vukajolvic on cello, Jerrod Haning on viola, and Jennifer Hill on violin. Their steady, subdued-but-excellent sounds seemed at times to perturb the young actors who, when singing seemed to try to channel to the band the message to play louder and faster so they could metaphorically roll down the windows on the theatre and let their voices and spirits soar.
Our favorite part of the performance happened before the play itself got underway. Director Henderson had his actors frolicking about the stage, as young people are wont to do, as the audience arrived. Then, they took their places perched atop chairs that were literally hanging off the wall at random heights and order. It was as if the young people had been set on shelves -- out-of-the-way, out of sound, out of mind -- until the performance began, and the young actors were finally in charge -- taking the stage and, with sometimes heart-breaking results, taking control.
It is the little things, like suspending the children on the wall at the beginning of the show, and two young and damaged women singing together and ultimately taking one another's hands in courage, that touch people so much about Spring Awakening. It's the authentic tears of young Patrick Dodds who plays Moritz and the Judy Collins-like voice of Adrienne Lee's Ilse. It's the sad realization that the premise of the story -- adults being fearful and unwilling to affirm the agency of a new generation, and the individuals within it, because of the fear of their own authentic selves -- is just as applicable in modern America as it was in late 19th century Germany.
(Like reading Krickel? Tune in tomorrow for his reflections on, for many of us, the day the music died.)