.‘Spring Awakening’ in Napa Valley

If live theater, which is in crisis, ends up in a doom spiral, it won’t be for a lack of talent and energy from the current generation of performing artists.

The stages at College of Marin and Santa Rosa Junior College have recently hosted productions featuring some very good work by their youthful casts. Napa Valley College now joins the mix with their production of the coming-of-age rock musical Spring Awakening. The multi-Tony Award-winning musical runs at the Napa Valley College Performing Arts Center through March 17.

Adapted by Steven Sater from an 1891 German play by Frank Wedekind, it’s the tale of a group of German youth on the cusp of adulthood. The boys, when not struggling with an oppressive education system, are thinking a lot about sex. The girls, when not dealing with clueless parents, are thinking a lot about sex.

Melchior Gabor (Ben Stevens) is a bright, rebellious boy who questions the foundations on which society is built. Moritz Stiefel (Gabriel Reyes) is in a panic about his burgeoning sexuality and seeks counsel from Melchior. Wendla Bergman (Lila Howell) is a young woman with feelings for her childhood friend, Melchior. Their three worlds will collide with devastating results.

The content and trigger warning displayed in the lobby gives you a good idea of how devastating—“This production contains references to sexual assault, child abuse, teen pregnancy, abortion, death, and child loss; depictions of violence, weapons, suicide, and sexual content; as well as use of explicit language.”

Pretty heavy stuff for any age performer. And they have to sing, too.

Director Jennifer King has a lot of fine, young talent involved here. The aforementioned leads are strong, and there’s good work from the diverse group of supporting players and ensemble. Music director Christina Howell leads a seven-piece, on-stage band that is heavy on strings and does Duncan Sheik’s score justice.

Bethany Deal’s costumes adhere to the rigidness of the era until they don’t and the connections to the youth of today become clear. Set designer Brian Watson’s multi-level set of hanging windows and doors reflects the desire of youth for clarity and the closed-mindedness of society.

The rousingly-delivered, show-stopping number, “Totally Fucked,” encapsulates every generation’s feelings around this time in their lives. It’s also how many in the theater community feel right now. Napa Valley College’s production of Spring Awakening should give both groups some hope.

‘Spring Awakening’ runs through March 17 at the Napa Valley College Performing Arts Center, 2277 Napa Vallejo Hwy., Napa. Fri. & Sat., 7pm; Sun., 2pm. $15–$25. 707.256.7500. Strobe lighting and haze effects. Mature themes and explicit language. Recommended for ages 16+. performingartsnapavalley.org.


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