Naked ambition

Spring Awakening

These actors perform during the TMCC performance of Spring Awakening at the Redfield Campus.

These actors perform during the TMCC performance of Spring Awakening at the Redfield Campus.

Photo by AMY BECK

Spring Awakening, A New Musical by TMCC Performing Arts has performances at Nell J. Redfield Performing Arts Center on Nov. 17, 18, 19 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 20 at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $17 adults; $15 students; $10 TMCC students/seniors. See or call (775) 789-5671 for more information.

Before you get the wrong idea, no, I did not give the latest TMCC Performing Arts musical, Spring Awakening, a rating of “sublime” because it has nudity in it.

But did said nudity affect my rating process? Well, I think it takes, ahem, balls, and unwavering devotion to the craft—especially if you’re a college student—to pull your pants down on stage and perform in a love scene so authentic that the chemistry seems palpable, all the while surrounded on three sides by at least 50 people. And to do so over and over for three weekends in a row. I mean, impressive, right?

Add to that the collective voice talents—18 of them in this show, and not a bad voice in the bunch—and the ability to pull off choreography that, in a couple of places, gets tricky.

Spring Awakening, set in 1892 Germany, tells the story of eight boys and eight girls who find themselves in that time of adolescence when they’re too young to know much about sex, but old enough to let it get them in trouble. The story opens on Wendla (Megan Smith), a girl who begins questioning her mother about where babies come from, and learns nothing useful. This is Important.

Wendla has a bunch of girlfriends who also know very little about it—all except for Ilse (Sabrina Kales), who’s learning more than she should at home.

Meanwhile, the boys are beginning to spend time daydreaming about girls and masturbating. Melchior (Evan Harris) seems to be the “leader” of the group; he’s managed to catch Wendla’s eye, and he is the one the other boys go to for wisdom about the ladies. Mostly, his pal Moritz (Adam Semas) does this. Moritz’s grades are really suffering at school because all he can think of is sex, and his stern father berates him incessantly for this. This is also Important.

While some of the guys are thinking about girls, one or two fantasize about women, and two boys in particular keep thinking about each other.

Did I mention this is an adult show?

A lot of awakenings take place, sexual and otherwise, and though some of the teenagers’ experiences are funny, the themes, on the whole, are quite dark. As they come to grips with their sexuality, their often strange desires, and the consequences of acting on them, they belt out tunes that, as the program states, are used “not to forward the story but instead to provide a deeper, richer understanding of the characters’ emotional and intellectual mindsets and souls at that given moment in the play.”

The songs in most musicals fall into one of two categories: 1) They are organic, meaning that, as with opera, the lyrics convey important details and are integral to the story, or 2) They’re fun asides in which the characters break into choreographed song and dance numbers, and then return to the story. But in Spring Awakening, the characters’ internal monologues, their streams of consciousness, are what’s sung, in a rock style completely separate from 1892 Germany. We hear what they’re wrestling with. We crawl inside their daydreams.

As I said, the performances are impressive. Kudos to Megan Smith and Evan Harris, in particular, for their convincing, tastefully done love scene and their versatility throughout the show. Also to Cody Justin Hamilton, who plays Hanschen, a character whose desires repeatedly make him vulnerable (read: cringe-worthy), and yet it’s played without a stitch of awkwardness.

And to the band, who deftly carry the show’s every moment. Though, if I were to criticize anything, it might be Steven Sater’s lyrics, as they occasionally eluded me or felt too heavy-handed.

There’s only one weekend left of this show—I’d recommend getting tickets. As long as you don’t embarrass easily.