Peter D. Kramer

“Spring Awakening” in White Plains

In Reviews on September 19, 2011 at 8:33 am

Ten things to love about “Spring Awakening” at White Plains Performing Arts Center.

Being first. Very cool to be attending the New York regional premiere — in White Plains.

The adrenaline. The room seemed super-charged with energy. The actors were pumped and you could tell. The air was electric.

The look. From the set, by Stephen Ferri and Christina Fremgen, to Matthew Guminski’s lights to the uncredited costumer, this was a first-rate production.

The band. Conductor/Musical director Stephen Ferri’s seven-piece band — Neal Johnson, Gary Capozziello, Michael Alas, Kaitlyn Raitz, Lexi Bodick and Ben Goldstein — rocked when they needed to, but were whisper quiet when that was required. That kind of dynamic control is too-often lacking — and appreciated.

Brisk direction. Director Jeremy Quinn kept things moving briskly. A nice touch to have the ensemble in street clothes at the end, to make the point that these issues — sexuality, confusion, hormones, overbearing parents — are just as much an issue in 2011 America as they were in 1891 Germany.

The moves. Lexie Frare’s choreography crackled, channeling the young cast’s energy with stylized moves that paid homage to Bill T. Jones’ Tony-winning work while making it their own. Particularly liked the power of “Totally F***ed,” in which the stage pulses with energy.

Lauren Wagner. The Yorktown Heights native brought real heart to a girl who is a mix of hormones and confusion, trapped in a world where adults believe in the stork. Her sweetness and innocence quickly dissipates when she joins the company in “My Junk” and repeatedly slams her foot to the ground. This kid’s a live wire. And she can sing.

Michael Valentine. That Melchy Gabor, he’s such a radical. Valentine is older than the rest of the “Awakening” cast, and his maturity matches Melchior’s, a role requiring an actor who can play nuance. Valentine’s presence is undeniable and his vocal control is remarkable. This is an actor who sings. Melchior has all sorts of questions, challenging authority, education, and social mores. Valentine’s Melchior is thoughtful and poetic, and charming. He wants to know what you think. He’s a listener.

The kids, the adults, the ensemble. The cast is uniformly fine, led by Wagner and Valentine. Maggie Thompson, Natalia Fogarty, Triona O’Callaghan (excellent!), Annie Nelson, Sydney Parra, Joe Venice, Thompson B. Crozier, Todd Ritch (hilarious!), Paul Ianniello (great voice, great comedic skills), Travis McClung (the tragic Moritz), George Domenick, Veronica Decker, Michelle Lauto, Shontay Richardson, Stephanie Rubino, Stephanie Savino, Alejandro Funes, Anthony Malchar, Jared Martin and Nicholas Triosi.

Stephen Ferri. He got the rights, he produced, he was musical director and set designer. His band was pitch perfect. The kid has skills, to be sure. One to watch.

Congratulations, all.

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