Spring Awakening review
“SPRING AWAKENING” PERFORMED BY “SECOND ACT THEATRE” AT THE JUBILEE THEATRE
I had the good fortune of being invited to the Jubilee Theatre, located in the extensive grounds, of St. Nicholas Hospital, to write a review on “SPRING AWAKENING” a “Tony Award” winning musical performed by “Second Act Theatre”. It’s been a good few years since I last visited a theatre, in fact, I was still in short pants, and being an Christmas Panto – it didn’t really count. Skip forward 40 years, and now wearing longer trousers, I was really looking forward to watching a live musical production, especially at a theatre I never even knew existed.
“Second Act Theatre” relaunched in 2016 with a highly acclaimed production of “RENT” which was performed to near sell out audiences. They, along with their younger sister “First Act” are resident at the “Grade 2 listed” Jubilee Theatre – a Victorian proscenium arch theatre built by John W Dyson, back in 1899. Over the years quite a few household names have tread the well-worn Jubilee boards, Laurel and Hardy being the most famous, taking to the stage to practice new material while visiting the North East. It was also used as a rehearsals stage for Theatre Royal Pantomimes, right up until the final curtain came down in 1954, when it fell into disrepair. With a huge amount of hard work, fundraising, grants and donations “Second Act” now have a theatre to be proud of. Impressive it is too!
There was quite a mix of folk waiting at reception, eager for the curtain to rise on opening night. One or two singles arrived alone and stood in quiet anticipation, while lively groups of students, probably friends of the cast, boisterously chatted about what their contemporaries were about to achieve. A few other couples, proud parents/grandparents of the actors, mingled between groups, passing the time until curtain call. At 7.00pm prompt, the doors opened and we all filed in to take our raked seating for tonight’s musical extravaganza.
“SPRING AWAKENING” is a musical based on a play wrote by Frank Wedekind in 1891. It’s set in a German village and chronicles the troubles of a group of teenagers trying to cope with all that grown up life throws at them. During the play, various topics are covered and expressed in the form of song and dance, all accompanied by an impressive 7 piece band / orchestra. Some of the scenes, such as the classroom and the young lovers, were a complete joy. Others, such as the girl with a brutal, abusing father, the suicide and a few other scenes were, at times, a tad uncomfortable. Due to its explicit sexual content, it was once banned in Germany, luckily morals have changed, so with open minds, we, along with the rest of the 100 strong audience, sat back and enjoyed the entertainment on offer. Lets not forget that this is an amateur dramatic group, with the only stream of money trickling in from tickets sales, raffles and from the refreshments served at the interval. Watching tonight’s performance, you’d have difficulty separating this cast from the pro’s on stage at the Theatre Royal.
Opening night nerves didn’t throw up any serious curve balls with every star shining, some more brightly than others. The cast were well rehearsed with no missed cues, or forgotten words and the choreography was outstanding – not to mention the singing which was simply mesmerizing. The last act of the night “Purple Summer” was sung by the whole cast, all on stage together, in perfect harmony. It was my favourite scene, spellbinding, and brought the house down. Judging by the infectious whooping and riotous applause, as the cast took their final bow, this show will prove to be as popular as their last.
Hopefully, in the next few days of “SPRING AWAKENING”, the cast will once again play to a sold out theatre.