Don’t know what your rebellious teenage kids have on their mind? Wonder if they would ever tell you? It’s safe to say that the answer would be no, but at least let Pangdemonium!’s latest baby, Spring Awakening, tell you about it.
Originally a play written by dramatist Frank Wedekind in 1892, and adapted from the original Broadway musical with the same title, Spring Awakening was said to be “daring in its depiction of teenage self-discovery”. It might not be the first to challenge the controversies of teenage adolescence, but it was considered “ultra-radical” in the 20th century, leading to multiple bans since its release.
Providing a deeper insight into the road from adolescence to adulthood, and dipping into themes such as pre-marital sex, suicide, incest, child abuse, abortion,the audience is urged to buy into the show with caution. Infused with wit, much intelligence and effort is obviously placed into the daring production by husband and wife team Adrian and Tracie Pang.
With the rising numbers in teenage suicides due to academic pressure and teenage pregnancy in modern Singapore, Adrian personally warned parents in the play’s footnote to “listen, or else you’re f**ked”.
The musical is watched set in the late 19th century, with fantastical sets to soften the harsh realities of the events presented in the plays. The men were clad in suits and the ladies were dressed conservatively, and the audience was reminded to switch off their electronic devices as “it’s 1892, electrical devices were not invented yet”. The exception is the awkward Moritz (Eden Ang), who sports a mohawk – a symbol of insecure teenage rebellion that adds a modern flair to a subdued world.
Headlining the musical is the winner of Teenage Icon 2005, singer Nathan Hartono, portraying the undaunted, charismatic and witty Melchior who sees the corrupted world, while entangled in a disputable teenage romance with Wendla (played by Broadway enthusiast and named one of Oprah’s “World’s Smartest and Most Talented Kids”, Julia Abueva).
Of course, how would teenage juvenescence be whole without the company of friends? Anna (Klaune Saunders), Martha (Rachel Marley), Ilse (Rebecca Spykerman) and Thea (Seong Hui Xian) makes up the giggly girls that nurse an infatuation for the handsome and intelligent Melchior. Best friend duo Melchior and Moritz are supported by their schoolmates-cum-amigos Ernst (Dwayne Tan), Georg (Erwin Shah), Otto (Raeza Ibrahim) and Hanschen (Rayve Tay) in song and dance.
It wouldn’t be a Pangdemonium! production without the trademark wit and skill of Adrian Pang, who takes on the role of The Adult Men, juggling personas of various fathers as well as the Teacher, akin to the actual Broadway show. With his experience in UK as a theatre actor who boasts works like Hair, A Midsummer Night’s Dream to The Comedy Of Errors, the actor-producer is no doubt a top-notch performer that brings life to every character he plays.
Candice De Rozario, who is no novice to the theatre, having portrayed multiple roles like Cinderella’s sinister stepsister in Into The Woods, plays the female counterpart to Adrian’s role as the mothers and Teacher. Having previously played the role of “Estelle” in Pangdemonium!’s first production The Full Monty, Candice brings a wild, eccentric energy to the stage (unsurprising if you know that she once co-fronted a death metal band from 2004 to 2007).
As the characters deal with puberty and come to terms with their sexuality, the initial carefree innocence of the childhood is brutally stripped away by their discovery of life’s trials and tribulations as new relationships are formed and old ones are ended.
While the production holds moments of wit and entertainment, don’t really expect a fairytale ending from a play that deals with such dark subject matter.
Spring Awakening is now showing at the Drama Centre Theatre, from 3 -26 February 2012. Get your tickets here.