Spring Awakening from Nearly Naked and Phoenix Theatre Is a Must-See

You have one more week to see one of the best productions of a musical you'll ever see anywhere, ever. Briefly, in case you're unfamiliar with it, Spring Awakening is an adaptation of an early 20th-century German proto-Expressionist play about what happens when adolescents don't have anyone to talk to about their sexuality, with a rock score by Duncan Sheik.

Phoenix Theatre seasons have skewed rather mainstream the past several years, and although Spring Awakening was a Broadway hit (launching Glee star Lea Michele), this PT co-production with Nearly Naked Theatre is more frank and graphic than season subscribers to the former may be accustomed to. It's a show intended for mature audiences, though teenagers adore it and parents might just want them to see it. What a teenager might not adore is seeing it while sitting right next to a parent.

Not only is every element of this staging -- acting, vocals, choreography, musical direction and accompaniment, lights, set, costumes -- strong and effective, they also mesh together for that extra punch of organic perfection that the best shows have. (Okay, I do wish there'd been room in the budget for long woollen stockings, but I can live without them.) And the intimacy of the venue is a rare opportunity to soak up the nuances of something that might otherwise come off as a "big" show.

Some of the many highlights are Mark 4Man's entirely stunning show band, the gorgeous clarity of the lyrics and the sound design in general, and David Weiss' by-now-expected virtuosity as every adult male role in the show. Matthew Cordon, as stressed-out, über-miserable Moritz, is outstanding in his vibrant sincerity, and the rest of the young cast is equally deft and moving. (Susan St. John, who plays the adult women, is a friend of mine, and she does a great job, but I probably can't be objective about it.)

If this were presented as a song cycle, it would still work, because these people are mad talented. Damon Dering and Robert Kolby Harper, who co-directed, create moments that will make you laugh and cry, and the story is still terrifyingly fresh and topical -- so much so that you'll wish it weren't.

Spring Awakening continues through Sunday, July 1, at 100 East McDowell Road. Dynamic pricing is in effect -- so the scarcer tickets become, the more they might cost -- but great seats start at $25. Order tickets to Phoenix Theatre here, or call 602-254-2151.

Update 6-27 From Phoenix Theatre: Due to an unfortunate circumstance, this evening's performance of Spring Awakening is cancelled. Mark Foreman, the musical director and onstage bandleader was injured today. He is okay and recovering, however will be unable to play tonight's show. We apologize for any inconvenience this causes. Your ticket will be honored at the price you paid for any of the remaining performances: - Thursday, June 28th at 8pm - Friday, June 29th at 8pm - Saturday, June 30th at 8pm - Sunday, July 1st at 2pm

Please call the box office at 602.254.2151 as soon as possible to exchange your seat.

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Julie has written for the Night & Day events calendar section since 2005. As a student at Arizona State, she received the Glendon and Kathryn Swarthout Creative Writing Award and the Theatre Medallion of Merit.
Contact: Julie Peterson