SMC Troubadours Review: Spring Awakening

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Returning through a re-awakening of rebellion

Julliana Santos, Arts Editor

Leaving the Young Center for Performing Arts after the SMC Troubadours’ 2pm matinee production of Spring Awakening, I found myself looking around in a daze – awake, with the energy and biting triumph of the cast and crew’s performance echoing in my movements. The Troubadours’ show ran from March 25th to March 26th, with one performance at 7pm on the 25th, and two at 2pm and 7pm on the 26th. Under the direction of Isabella Cesari, the well-known (and well-beloved) musical took on the spirit of Spring Awakening, jolting people into the play’s story and characters, through purposeful lighting, costume, and setting decisions that create an atmosphere of minimalistic yet unwavering rebellion. 

As this was my first in-person attendance of any performance since 2019, I felt a sense of haziness going in, unsure of how people and places fit together in this context. The first thing that caught my eye in the dark theatre was the intimacy of the set, despite its sparse nature. An overhead hanging light, made up of dark-wood twigs cast a solemn air over the stage. Hanging in the background were three windows, spaced apart by two dark-wood twig bundles hanging down, similar to the light fixture’s composition. The lighting of the stage was controlled masterfully depending on the mood and tone of the performance. Red light, darkening all the hanging elements to silhouetted and leaving figures in shadowy, pronounced shapes, created the precise emotional tone for the Troubadours’ rendition of “The Dark I Know Well.” The heaviness of that song was accurately portrayed through Maya Bogojevic’s controlled portrayal of Martha and the lighting and sound direction that accompanied her. For songs like “The Bitch of Living” and “Totally Fucked,” the lighting and set also added to the energy of the performance, reverberating with each stamp and jump accompanying peoples’ voices. The use of flashlights and blue lighting were also well executed during moments of solemnity and unity among the characters’ discordant emotions.

I would also like to note the creative choices of Kara Austria, the costume designer, as well as Nika Gottlieb, the hair and makeup designer of this production. From costuming choices like the contrast of Martha’s red dress, to the subtle variances in the school uniforms of the cast, each character’s emotional and mental state were accurately portrayed – elevated. The choice to use eyeliner, emerging in varying patterns from certain characters’ eyes to show their inner rebellion in an outward manner was executed brilliantly. Most evidently, this choice worked with Nolan Rush’s portrayal of Melchior Gabor, accentuating his performance of Melchior’s emotional struggle with each progressing scene, as the branching black lines from his eyes would grow deeper and darker. The only part of the Troubadours’ show that was misaligned (only slightly!) with the emotional and musical push of the cast and crew’s performance would be some bursts of technical issues with the microphones, where sometimes static sounds would emerge, or a few voices would be difficult to hear. Despite this, the cast vocals and band’s musical performance managed to shine through in all their collaborative brilliance.

Overall, the SMC Troubadours’ performance of Spring Awakening brought with it the very push and pull of rebellion that this 2022 Spring necessitates: a drawback to something biting and tangible. From the stick-fixtures to the branching eyeliner, to the brilliant vocal and musical performances, the Troubadours managed to create the perfect space for the emotional weight of the narrative, imbibing it with all the nuance and severity of burgeoning life.