Director Wade Hair has put together a polished production of the rock musical "Spring Awakening," the Broadway darling of the 2006-07 season.
The sharp costumes by Donna Haines evoke the straitlaced time period of 19th-century Germany. Scenery is simple, replicating the Broadway staging of having the cast sit around the stage in chairs. A backdrop of empty picture frames (a search for identity?) and flickering lights is visually pleasing but not distracting.
Yet somewhere along the way, a key ingredient of "Spring Awakening's" emotional stew was forgotten: the anger.
Hair's young cast summons up frustration, sadness and worry as their characters struggle to come of age in such a repressed era — but where is the righteous rage of youth?
Part of the answer may be in the backing tracks used for the songs. The Mud Flappers, a local folk-pop ensemble fresh off a Fringe Festival success with "Onomatopoeia," recorded lovely instrumentals for the performance. Their softer edge suits Breakthrough Theatre's tiny theater — a true rock 'n' roll sound would overwhelm the space — but the trade-off is a lighter tone to the show.
In fact, the production gets more laughs than tears — after all, growing up is a tragicomedy, especially for this group of kids.
Melchior (Max Herskovitz) is the brainy, precocious one, not afraid to speak his mind — and being punished for it. Moritz (Bret T. Fox) is his sensitive friend with a nervous disposition and a demanding father. Wendla (Ariana Morales) is a naïve girl eager to grow up.
Herskovitz and Fox are appealing and make believable friends but each could dig deeper into his character's emotional journey. Fox is so anxious right from the top of the show that he has nowhere to go as Moritz spirals downward until his final drastic action. Herskovitz plays his emotional cards close to his chest and never really lets them all hang out, even after Melchior faces horribly devastating news.
Morales, who has the strongest voice of the leading trio, makes of the most of Wendla's naivete, with wide eyes and upturned face. In the show's trickiest scene, she succeeds in making Wendla seem simple enough to beg Melchior to beat her just so she can feel something, anything.
In smaller roles, Jonathan Corzo gives pragmatic Hanschen a distinct personality, and Cynthia Ros McClendon effectively re-sets her face time and again to play a variety of adult women. Damian Barra and Erynn Hair display lovely voices — and, in fact, the whole cast blends beautifully on the ensemble numbers. (Musical direction is by Don Hopkinson.)
But in a show about the angst of growing up, a little more grit should be found among the beauty.
Mpalm@tribune.com or 407-420-5038.
•What: 'Spring Awakening'
•Length: 2:10 with 1 intermission
•When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and Mondays; 3 p.m. Sundays; through Aug. 21
•Where: Breakthrough Theatre, 419A W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park
•Tickets: $20; $18 seniors; $12 students
•Call: 407-920-4034Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times