Washington Blade: Spring Awakening

Directors Mark A. Rhea and Susan Marie Rhea handle this challenging material with great finesses and sensitivity, guiding the talented cast through their scenes with an effective blend of comedy and tragedy. The musical staging is generally fluid and eye-catching as the cast moves from the relative still of the book scenes to the explosive outbursts of the songs. Musical Director Jake Null gets great instrumental performances from a superb 10-piece band and outstanding vocal performances from powerhouse singers with exceptional range and diction.

The cast is uniformly strong, with outstanding performances from Nora Palka as Ilsa and Charlotte Akin as the Adult Women. Palka’s rich voice brings great poignancy to songs where she tells about horrible sexual abuse (“The Dark I Know Well”) and where she tries to save the suicidal Moritz (“Blue Wind”), but she also shines when she leads the cast in the moving finale (“The Song of Purple Summer”). Akin is delightful in several small roles, showing great comic flair as a busty piano teacher and a mean schoolmistress, severe earnestness as Wendla’s mother and deeply moving sensitivity as Melchior’s sympathetic mother.

While most cultural venues have already slipped into more escapist summer fare, Keegan Theatre deserves a round of applause for ending their season with more challenging material. LGBT audiences will find “Spring Awakening,” with its positive portrayal of homosexuality and complex depictions of sexual politics, especially rewarding.

Read the Full Review at Washington Blade