I was supposed to watch Duncan Sheik last February in San Francisco perform his work from the play Spring Awakening. Unfortunately, I just arrived 2 days away from the performance and my schedule didn’t permit me to see the show. I felt bad about that because I am a big fan and I really wanted to see him on stage again.
That’s why when I saw from a friend’s tweet that there’ll be a Philippine production of the award-winning play, I immediately convinced my friends to watch it with me. I even called the production (Atlantis) and asked if Duncan will be coming over and what play date would it be then. I even offered financial help just to ensure that he’ll make it to one of the play dates but unfortunately, there’s a conflict on his schedule.
Lo and Behold, I was able to buy orchestra seats of which I believe wasn’t a smart idea since the play was held at Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium in RCBC Plaza. If I only knew that it was relatively small place I could have gotten a ticket 3 back rows away from our purchased seats.
But prior to watching it last October 11, the show was cancelled twice. We were to watch it originally last September 26th when it was cancelled due to the storm Ondoy and was rescheduled but was called off again due to super typhoon Pepeng last October 3rd.
And as they say all’s well that end’s well.
Now, I’m ready to do my review.
The play opened with Wendla (female lead) singing “Mama Who Bore Me” and I instantly loved her. I think the actress sang better than the one from the original cast as I have heard it through the soundtrack. But it isn’t just the thing that I liked from the opening, the part where she asked and forced her mother to explain where do babies come from really cracked me up. Her mother’s reply to it was this, “to conceive a child a woman must love her husband with all of her heart”. The delivery was perfect!
Prior to watching the play, I have already expected that the tone of the play is quite serious and exploratory. But I was wrong not to think that the plot can also be comedic and hilarious.
Another proof of this observation is right after the dramatic scenes from the funeral of Moritz and Melchior’s expulsion from school, a comedy-relief scene followed immediately, where Hanschen was just sharing his thoughts about life to his classmate Ernst that ended up with him seducing the latter. What cracked me up isn’t the fact about the gay relationship but the song that was played which is “The Word of Your Body Reprise”. It is the reprise version of the so-called love song of the main characters Wendla and Melchior.
I strongly believe that it’s effective to do a comic approach on serious matters. The method that Frank Wedekind used to send the message is clever. Another example is the reprise of the first song that showed the young girls’ frustration over the lack of knowledge presented to them. And it was orchestrated in a very unconventional approach, this time with a more serious tone coupled in an alternative rock melody with a freestyle dance moves that at times look silly and funny but will totally catch your attention.
The theme was really heavy, it talked about issues on education and what is being offered to the children, the lack of presentation of facts, and the overly conservative feel of joining boys and girls in one institution and of course, the adolescent’s yearning for the truth about life. The play was dominantly serious but comical. And I liked it that way. Besides, as part of the audience, the reason why I wanted to watch a performance is to be entertained and the least is to be bored and unsatisfied.
Looking at the stage design before the start, I’ve find it too simple but it didn’t stop the audience to feel and imagine where the scene is during the play. Besides the play can stand alone and capitalize on the good plot. No need to be extravagantly designed.
Though one thing that can still be improved is Nicco Manalo’s performance who played as Moritz. His performance as an actor was fine and convincing but there were times that he went flat and unfortunately he got most of the rock alternative sound parts of the play that I think wasn’t given a total justice. There were even at least three times that I’ve thought he’d run out of breathe and wish that I can help him out.
But that didn’t ruin the experience especially with Nar Cabrico’s powerful voice which is for me is the best among the male actors. Male lead Joaquin Valdes’ performance was also superb. Loved his dance moves during the “Totally Fucked” act and I’ve felt his sadness and feelings with his rendition of “Left Behind”. Emotions are pouring as you could see it in his eyes.
Aside from the wonderful interpretation of female lead Kelly Lati, I also liked Bea Garcia who played Ilse. Her voice was really strong and you could feel her angriness when she sang her part on “The Dark I Know Well” and I had goose bumps when she opened the very beautiful “The Song of Purple Summer”.
Over-all I’m more than satisfied, watching this show and it made me think of watching the actual play in Broadway. I really love how Frank made the playwright and the collaboration of Steve Sater and Duncan Sheik was truly genius. The orchestration and score was really superb. Hope I didn’t sound too biased since I’m a big Duncan Sheik fan but I may really say that this is one show that you shouldn’t miss. Despite the heavy theme, there’s a promise of new tomorrow. Ending it with “The Song of Purple Summer” was really perfect. With the amount of drama about life as it was discussed and a reminder to the audience that there’s always hope that we can cling into will truly uplift you at the end of the show.
The Philippine production even ended it with a bang as they re-performed by favorite act from the show which is the “Totally Fucked” song. I’ve searched for videos of the song and I’ve found one from the original cast as they were touring UCLA and another rendition by a high school thespian which is truly worth watching. Hope you’ll like this song.