Stepping away from the conventional routes of student theatre, Bath University Student Musicals Society (BUSMS) have dared to dream big this year with an ambitious production of the multi-award winning rock opera Spring Awakening. Fortunately, the valiant attempt worked with individual performances and an even stronger chorus setting a new parameter for future productions.
Set in late-19th Century Germany, Spring Awakening – based on Frank Wedekind’s contentious play -challenges the domain of adolescence focusing on the burgeoning love of Melchior (played by Tom Burgess) and Wendla (played by Heather Kirk), two teens learning to deal with their internal and external sexual yearnings. The musical unravels to reveal the overriding turmoil of sexuality, grief and love in a deeply repressed society.
It is Heather Kirk, whose strong, visibly impassioned portrayal of Wendla who supports the play, sometimes carrying a shaky Tom Burgess, whose Melchior only comes to its own in the second half. Yet it is difficult to talk about the entire production without highlighting Dario Biedma-Coleman as Moritz, the suicidal best friend of Melchior, whose ability to move from comedy to tragedy is perfectly timed, his delivery of complex vocals demonstrating an intense understanding of the material.
At times it was clear that the female support outshone the men with disappointingly short parts for Ellie Marsh, playing Moritz’s doomed love interest, and Hollie Christian-Brookes, as child-abuse victim Martha, both briefly transforming the production with their individual solos. But when acting as a chorus, highlights including “Totally Fucked” and “My Junk”, they performed remarkably well, eliminating any doubts that the cast were out of their depth.
The musical is challenging, requiring delicate timing in order to effectively transition the large number of subplots which collate to form the bigger picture, something which the show fails to produce at time. This shouldn’t, however, deter you. Whilst it may not have flowed as meticulously as desired, it is easy to by-pass this through the show’s strong fluctuation between merriment and disaster.
This couldn’t have been achieved without the connection between the cast, easily visible on stage; no mean feat for an amateur production. With so many secondary characters this could have easily failed and whilst some of these plot-lines fall to the wayside, it is only because of they are unable to stand next to the stronger performers.
In all, the audacious adaptation of Spring Awakening offers what many would expect from musical theatre; eye-catching choreography, memorable songs and vivid emotion. But it’s straying away from the realms of the genre we are most comfortable with produce something which is all the more memorable and rewarding.
Tickets are available at the gate in University Hall. Tickets cost £5 for students and £7 for everyone else. Curtains rise at 7.30 on Friday 3rd and Saturday 4th October.
Photo credits to Hugh Wren