Rice University’s Student Newspaper — Since 1916

Saturday, May 18, 2024 — Houston, TX

For 'Spring Awakening,' heart overcomes its technical pitfalls


By Cannon Lewis     11/2/16 8:27pm

If you are anything like me, your first experience with sexuality was not the suave, controlled, balletic interplay of gleaming flesh and whispered confidences that is so often presented as the norm in popular culture. For most of us, that inaugural moment of physical — if not mental or emotional — maturity is marked not so much by sensuous rhythm as by awkward fumbling, too much of some things, and far too little of others. It is difficult to feel proud of or reminisce fondly about these experiences. And yet, there is an honesty inherent to this lack of polish, an earnestness that diminishes as we become more confident — or simply better at hiding how confusing relationships can be. The production of “Spring Awakening” by Sid Richardson and Will Rice Colleges shares many of these qualities with its subject matter; though the production makes some missteps and is marred by myriad technical issues, it attains an earnest, stripped-down quality which makes the play thoroughly enjoyable.

“Spring Awakening,” adapted by Steven Sater from a play of the same name by Frank Wedekind, deals with teenage sexual discovery in 19th-century Germany. The adapted version takes the form of a Broadway rock musical, featuring raucous songs such as “Totally Fucked” and “The Bitch of Living” that confer a bohemian, modern feel to what is otherwise a fairly moralistic story about the difficulties and consequences of sexual exploration. In fact, the songs may be the most fun part of “Spring Awakening,” as they are for the most part anthemic and full of sexual innuendos that leave one grinning. Despite these lighter moments, the play as a whole is quite dark, and the second act disproportionately so. Though its ultimate message is one of hope, “Spring Awakening” only barely manages to reverse the tragic spiral before its end, marring the authenticity of this positive turn.

The primary characters are Wendla, played by Lovett College junior Sarah Grace Graves; Melchior, played by Will Rice freshman Will Grimme; and Moritz, played by Martel College sophomore Jake Reinhart. Of these three, Grimme is the true standout, displaying a tremendous range of emotion and a talent for both singing and acting. Graves is quite clearly a capable singer, but is so quiet and given so little to do otherwise that her character almost disappears into the background during many scenes. In contrast, Reinhart performs an incredibly arresting interpretation of Moritz, but his singing leaves much to be desired. The rest of the cast is capable; though no one steals the show, there are also no significant failures in acting or singing. Of note are Sid Rich junior Meg Brigman and Jones College senior John Paul Peng, who play all of the adult roles. Though these various personas are slightly differentiated, it is at times difficult to discern which adult character is being portrayed, leading to some confusion as the events of the play unfold.

The biggest problem with the Sid Rich and Will Rice production of “Spring Awakening” is the technical setup. The production is staged in the Sid Rich basement, and perhaps due to the acoustics of the space, its sound production leaves much to be desired. To the play’s credit, it does feature a live orchestra, but the choice to mic actors at certain points and not at others is disastrous for the audience experience. The effect of this, in short, is that the play is deafening at one moment, then far too quiet at the next. Comprising only a few risers and some paper mache leaves, the production’s set also leaves much to be desired, passing the realm of minimalism and proceeding to boring. This set design has many impacts, not the least of which is limiting actors’ blocking to combinations of jumping, standing in place or sitting down in arbitrary spots on the blank stage.

However, these problems do not subsume what is genuinely great about “Spring Awakening”: its authenticity. It is clear that everyone on stage is having a good time and doing their best at all points, and one cannot help but enjoy this sincerity. Though the acting, singing and technical aspects of the production are uneven and could use improvement, they are enough to convey the core points of the play. This is, after all, college theater; though “Spring Awakening” is not a match for the more polished productions put on by the visual and dramatic arts department or the Rice Players, it certainly manages to entertain. Putting on a musical like “Spring Awakening” was an ambitious goal for Sid Rich and Will Rice, but the result is still a joy to watch.

More from The Rice Thresher

NEWS 2/2/23 9:24pm
Will the real Yo-Yo’s Hot Dog please stand up?: H&D brings True Dog Houston to campus after all

Housing & Dining announced on Jan. 31 that they had reached an agreement with “YOYO” to operate on campus. But the next day, H&D sent the Rice community a follow-up email with a flyer for the vendor they had actually secured: True Dog Houston, operated by Damion Loera, a former partner of YoYo’s Hot Dog who has since opened his own business selling similar hot dogs.

SPORTS 12/10/22 6:51pm
Bloomgren returns as head coach for 2023 season

Mike Bloomgren will return next season for his sixth as the head coach of Rice football, an athletic department official confirmed Saturday. While Bloomgren’s initial five-year contract was set to expire this year, the official said that he is under contract for the upcoming year after signing an extension in 2020. The total length of the extension is unknown.

SPORTS 11/21/22 11:56am
Volleyball beats No. 20 Western Kentucky in title game to reach C-USA hilltop

In 2019, the Rice volleyball team took on Western Kentucky University in the Conference USA final only to lose in a five-set heartbreaker. They got another shot at the Hilltoppers in the following year’s title game, and again in 2021, but both times WKU came out on top. Just ten days earlier, while not in the conference tournament, the Hilltoppers beat the Owls in a fifth-set tiebreaker to secure the C-USA regular season title. Sunday, though, the result was different. The No. 22 Owls finally made it past their conference rival, on the No. 20 Hilltoppers’ home court no less, to secure a conference title for the first time since 2018. After the match, head coach Genny Volpe said that she was thrilled to see her team rewarded for their efforts all year.


Please note All comments are eligible for publication by The Rice Thresher.