Belen Yudess ‘25
Social Media Manager
There was nothing left to do but “just watch” and be amazed by Spotlight’s superb rendition of Spring Awakening, directed by Rosie Carr PO ’23. Between the cast’s outstanding performances and the crew’s genius execution, the show had several nights of a packed house during its run from April 23-26. From the palpable chemistry between the show’s leads Isha Singh ’23 (Wendla) and Nick Russel PO ’26 (Melchior), the eccentric and heartbreakingly vulnerable numbers by Benji Willet PZ ’23 (Moritz), and the delicate yet powerful voice of Abbie Addell ’26 (Ilse), the amount of talent within this cast was “just too unreal.”
Another aspect of this production that was brilliant was the addition of an ASL interpreter, completed by Isabelle Conti ’25, during the Sunday matinee show.
Spring Awakening, which is set in the 1890s, tells the story of a group of teenagers in Germany as they try to learn about sex and other taboo topics that the adults refuse to teach or talk to them about. The main arc surrounds the naive Wendla Bergmen and her growing relationship with the savvy and rebellious Melichior Gabor, however it also includes additional plot lines focused around sensitive issues such as suicide, abortion, and child and domestic violence. Additionally, the musical is centered around queer love, pleasure, and first experiences.
The difficulty surrounding many of the show’s themes was not lost on the cast, and they attribute the handling of these elements as a large part of the musical’s success.
“I think it went really well because this show is very topic heavy and if not done with care, it can be received in a really harmful way,” Singh said. “I think there was a lot of intention behind what we put on and the support we had for one another. I think the audience was so receptive to something that is quite a controversial musical and there was just so much love put into the show, and it felt very powerful and special to all of us.”
Lucia Stein ’23, who seamlessly played the roles of every adult woman, echoed this sentiment and expressed gratitude for the cast and crew for creating a safe space to put on the show.
“I think the product was amazing, but I think that maybe part of that, but also just more meaningful to me was that the cast and crew are so lovely,” she said. “It’s just a really delightful little family that we created. And I think that partially because of the heavy type of show that it is, and partially just because of the type of people who were in it, everyone is just a really kind and beautiful person.”
When it came to building this bond, Mia Venezuela ’23 whose soothing voice was heard as Ana, identifies long rehearsal nights as a major part of fostering the dynamics between the cast and crew. “I feel like you have to build that foundation, and that’s what really lets us connect and have that familiarity with each other which translates to our comfort on stage,” she said.
These relationships were extremely important for actors who had to participate in intimate scenes, either with another character or themselves. Apart from the support within the cast and crew, many of the actors participated in intimacy training to ensure their safety and well-being when acting in these scenes.
Michael Lu PZ ’24, who hilariously depicted Hanschen, saw these training sessions as an essential aspect of the acting experience. “Even though it’s simulated sex or masturbation it’s still very intense and your body doesn’t always know the difference,” Lu said. “It’s important to be able to work with what your body knows or how your body knows itself in this situation.”
The cast also learned to lean on each other when it came to handling the more emotionally heavy scenes.
“Coming off from hard scenes like ‘Left Behind,’ we just banded together backstage and then relied on one another to get excited for the next scene,” Venezuela said. “We have our little references to different lines in the show and I think that’s how we can balance the emotional gravity of it and our real lives.”
In terms of learning the music for the show, which consisted of heartfelt ballads such as “Whispering” and upbeat showstoppers like “Totally Fucked,” music director Sam Clark ’24 did an excellent job in ensuring that each actor’s unique voice was highlighted and heard.
Clark beamed over the cast’s execution of the music and their dedication to each performance.
“I really appreciated how much I could tell people were working on things and how much care people put into the music,” Clark said. “There was a specific moment in ‘Purple Summer’ that, when thinking about it, I get goosebumps. We worked so hard on it and everyone was able to come together and we nailed it every single time. It’s one of my favorite memories from the show. I’ve never been a prouder mama in my entire life.”
The support system that the cast facilitated on stage was also prevalent behind the scenes, and Clark notes that the team’s encouragement gave her the confidence to direct.
“I was terrified, but everyone made me feel so comfortable and my goal was to make it so that everyone felt comfortable at vocal rehearsals and at any rehearsal in general,” she said. “I wanted to be a support for people and I didn’t realize how much I needed the same thing from them and how much they gave it to me. I really appreciate all of them as humans and they’re all insanely talented. When people would say the music from the show is so good, I’d be like, I got the IKEA box of a cast. This is how you put things together, but they were so good and like I could listen to them sing forever.”
Although set in the 1890’s, the main themes of Spring Awakening are still relevant today: the silencing of the voices of youth, the banning of information, and the stigma surrounding mental, emotional and physical health crises.
“There are so many instances in which parents don’t talk to their kids or kids are not listened to and valued,” Singh said. “I think that it’s important that the show addresses how important it is to have resources concerning safe abortions or proper sexual education and also mental health in general. The storyline is about making sure that you’re paying attention to your children and not putting unrealistic expectations on them, and it’s done in a very beautiful way.”
Ultimately, Spring Awakening “bore” an impeccable result while calling attention to greater issues surrounding youth in today’s world. Although this musical is over, the cast encourages anyone interested in theatre to get involved with student-run productions!
“You learn a level of self-assurance and self-confidence, but with a mix of chaotic unhingedness which meshes so beautifully together,” Stein said. “You have to put yourself out there and it’s a really good balance of having this assurance and also the ability to laugh and let go.”
Image Source: Belen Yudess ’25