Raw and Relevant: Sylvaine Strike’s Powerful Production of Spring Awakening – Review

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On the evening of April 14, 2024, I had the pleasure of attending a performance of Spring Awakening at the Pieter Toerien Theatre at Montecasino in Johannesburg. I had heard great things about this production, and I was not disappointed. In fact, I loved every minute of it and feel compelled to share my thoughts in this review. Directed by Sylvaine Strike, the show’s raw and powerful intensity left a lasting impression on me, and I was struck by how relevant its themes remain, even over a century after the original play was written.

In the riveting rock musical Spring Awakening, directed by Sylvaine Strike, the story of three main characters – the truth-seeking teen missile Melchior, his anxious classmate Moritz, and the blooming but sheltered Wendla – unfolds with a raw and powerful intensity. This production, which has been brought back by popular demand, masterfully tackles themes that are as relevant today as they were in the late 1890s, such as the consequences of keeping adolescents in the dark about their sexuality.

Scarlett Pay (Wendla) and Dylan Janse van Rensburg (Melchior) Photo Credit: Claude Bernado

The young cast, many of whom are not much older than the characters they portray, delivers a captivating performance under Strike’s visionary direction. The musical numbers are show-stopping and heartfelt, leaving audiences deeply moved by the story’s exploration of self-discovery, repression, and the power of rebellion.

Set against the backdrop of 1895 Germany, the musical follows a group of adolescent students as they grapple with their burgeoning sexuality and the burdensome societal norms that seek to suppress them. The production’s simplicity, with minimal props and offstage sound effects, ensures that the audience remains focused on the actors and the story, creating an emotionally charged atmosphere that is both mesmerising and menacing.

Photo Credit: Claude Bernado

The themes of teen suicide, pregnancy, physical and sexual abuse, and the navigation of adolescent sexuality are explored with unflinching honesty, making this a musical that is not for the faint of heart. However, it is precisely this raw and unfiltered approach that makes Spring Awakening a masterpiece that resonates with audiences of all ages.

Under Strike’s direction, the production is flawlessly executed, with each role player contributing to a cohesive and powerful whole. The actors’ performances are magnetic, with standout performances from Scarlett Pay as Wendla Bergman, Dylan Janse van Rensburg as Melchior, and Johnathan Conrad as Moritz. The musical direction, choreography, and set design all come together to create a production that is not just a student production, but a masterful work of art in its own right.

Johnathan Conrad’s portrayal of Moritz is nothing short of electrifying, showcasing a unique and magnetic stage presence that leaves a lasting impression with his compelling depiction of the troubled teen.

Spring Awakening is a musical that challenges audiences to confront the harsh realities of adolescence and the devastating consequences of societal repression. With its powerful storytelling, exceptional performances, and unforgettable musical numbers, it is a production that is not to be missed.

Tickets can be purchased via webtickets or by calling 011 511 1988.

Please note that Spring Awakening contains mature themes, partial nudity, sexual situations as well as explicit language. No persons under 13. 

Shaun Zietsman https://www.thesomethingguy.co.za

Blogger and Content Creator from Johannesburg, South Africa.

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