‘Spring Awakening’ is a spirited reminder for the youth to break barriers and speak up

As close as we all wish to be with our parents, there will always be those moments of dead air, where touchy topics of conversation are left to molder at the back of our minds. In that empty space, shame and confusion fester, often leaving us bewildered by the onrush of changes that come with growing up.

For the finale of its 27th season, the Ateneo Blue Repertory brings this tension under the spotlight in its second rendition of Spring Awakening, a tale of German youths unearthing their blooming sexuality to the dismay of their parents and superiors. Baffled by their changing bodies, the students seek the guidance of the highly intelligent and radical Melchior Gabor, whose rebellious streak eventually catches the attention of the school’s Headmaster. With the circulation of Melchior’s racy essay and the students growing friskier, the school and their parents are left to intervene and impose their authority.

For those familiar with the more conventional Broadway staging of the musical, you’d notice that blueREP did away with the glitz and glam of the Broadway edition, opting for a more intimate and focused interpretation of Duncan Sheik and Steve Sater’s composition. That’s not a knock against the production though, as the cast still preserves much of the risqué pomp Spring Awakening is best known for.

The trio of Sandino Martin, Krystal Kane, and Juancho Gabriel fully embodied the sexually-charged characters they  were portraying . Sandino’s Melchior, in particular, commands the attention of the audience with his exuberance and wit, a fitting counter to the naivité of Krystal’s Wendla  and Juancho’s Moritz. Together, they provided a sharp contrast to the domineering adults, who throughout the plot, sought to preserve the innocence of the children.

Although set in 19th century Germany, the characters’ narratives still hold much relevance in the modern context. Wendla and Moritz are fed the same lies about sexuality and love that an adolescent living in the present would be told . This ignorance is magnified by the supporting cast, who weave their own individual stories seamlessly into the mix, matching the energy of the leads. Whether it be in the ecstatic wail of Totally Fucked Up, or the brooding balladry of Those You’ve Known, the whole cast launched themselves wholeheartedly into each song, standing before the audience as voices of the youth often left unheard by the older generation. The performances oozed a cathartic kind of vulnerability.

 

Although there were occasional slips, the cast eventually warmed up to the crowd of Hyundai Hall. This was mostly evident in the second act, when they finally seized the stage, with their movements bolder and their voices louder than in the earlier stages of the production.

Behind its rock-opera veneer and often dark humor, Spring Awakening never strays too far from its purpose: to reconcile the dissonance between the young and the old. Spring Awakening serves as a reminder for us to embrace this vulnerability and speak up. Maybe then, in this void between us and the older generation, can we start building bridges instead of walls.

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