BY CAROLINE PALMER --Special to the Star Tribune
Theatre Latté Da and the University of Minnesota of Theatre Arts and Dance’s take on “Spring Awakening” summons all of the seething anger, shattered dreams and daring hope of adolescence into a theatrical event that shines with raw brilliance. Part of its success is thanks to Carl Flink’s choreography and how well director Peter Rothstein integrates it throughout the production (book and lyrics by Steven Sater).
When Frank Wedekind wrote the source work in 1891 he described as “a tragedy of childhood” and Flink picks up on this dark theme throughout the movement – it fairly roils with the barely-contained energy and scrambled desires of disaffected youth. The teenage characters have reached an age in which they finally understand life’s injustices. This hard-won awareness translates, understandably, into extreme physical, as well as emotional, response.
Bill T. Jones choreographed “Spring Awakening” on Broadway (and earned a Tony Award for his efforts). Flink picks up on the high-flying jumps and pogo-style bounding Jones brought to the work, spurred on by Duncan Sheik’s sometimes punk rock influenced score. Each artist makes visible and tangible the internal hormonal slam-dance that defines the teenage years.
David Darrow and Cat Brindisi in "Spring Awakening" / Star Tribune photo by Marlin Levison
But Flink doesn’t seek to copy Jones – he brings his own movement interpretation to the stage. At times the performers are literally flinging themselves at the walls, shimmying down poles or climbing into the audience. They grapple with the space around them in the same way they are wrestling with all the lessons of life (Tyler Michaels as the doomed Moritz embodies this conflict particularly well). And then sometimes they simply breathe. The madness slows down momentarily. The movement finds a softer, understated and more lyrical tone in many of the musical’s anthemic songs such as “Mama Who Bore Me” and “The Word of Your Body.”
“Spring Awakening” has a lot to say about betrayal. Parents fail their children, teachers fail their students and friends fail one another. Knowledge and truth are undermined by secrecy, pride and selfishness. Flink integrates all of these challenging ideas into his choreography. It’s not neat and tidy – rightfully so. Instead it is performed by the entire cast with all the raging heart and rugged soul of young people who so desperately yearn to be set free from the bounds of social convention that they must express themselves by using every means necessary.
When: 7:30 p.m. Wed.-Sat., 2 p.m. Sun. Ends May 6. Where: Rarig Center, 330 21st Av. S., Mpls.Tickets: $19-$39, 612-624-2345 or tickets.umn.edu