The great thing about the Tony-winning rock musical Spring Awakening, with its classroom of repressed 19th-century German schoolkids trying to understand sex, is that it’s rippling with adolescent energy. All that confusion, pain, and joy—it’s impossible not to feel something as you follow their path to discovery. What a smart move by Balagan Theatre to pick this play as its debut in its new home at Erickson Theater in Capitol Hill. Balagan, a recently homeless fringe theater company, has come alive with this production and its cast of talented young up-and-comers, directed by a rising star himself, Eric Ankrim (soon to play Curly in Oklahoma! at 5th Avenue Theatre).
Brian Earp and Diana Huey compliment each other as charming rebel Melchior and wide-eyed innocent Wendla, lead roles made famous by Glee stars Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele. And special mention goes Justin Huertas and Ben Wynant, who, as classmates Hanschen and Ernst, show great range as their characters embrace their homosexuality—one timidly, the other tenaciously—and then each other.
Like a teen in the throes of hormone overdrive, Jerick Hoffer, with his powerful voice, goes a bit over the top in his portrayal of volatile Moritz,
who’s wracked with guilt because he’s hot for his piano teacher. But he has an award-winning score backing him up, done justice by music director Kimberly Dare and her chamber orchestra. Ultimately, Spring Awakening promises a bright future for Balagan. Note: Audience members must be 14 years or older due to adult subject matter, language and some nudity.
Erickson Theater Off Broadway, through Jan 15
UPDATED 1/12/11. The January run of this show has sold out. They will remount the production April 20–29, with tickets available at brownpapertickets.com.