Hills Musical Company Inc
Stirling Community Theatre
Until 25 Nov 2017

Review by Paige Mulholland

“Spring Awakening” is serious business. Fiercely beloved, uniquely intimate and tremendously confronting, it is not a show any amateur company should take on lightly – after all, not every actor will be willing to take their clothes off on stage for free. Luckily, the Hills Musical Company proved themselves up to the task, with outstanding leads, a singularly creative set and a timely approach to the interpretation of the show.

Based on the controversial German play of the same name, the rock musical “Spring Awakening” explores the consequences of withholding things like information, guidance, love and support from our children.

The story follows a group of German teenagers encountering sex and desire for the first time, most with no understanding of what they are feeling or what consequences may come from their actions. The characters also battle with intense family pressures, physical and sexual abuse, and the grief of losing loved ones. With simulated sex, violence and plenty of adult content on stage, it is not a show for the faint hearted, but is a beautiful and moving piece of theatre.

Millicent Sarre and Mitchell Smith play Wendla Bergman and Melchior Gabor and are the indisputable standouts of the show. With strong chemistry, technical and emotive vocals and strong, dramatic performances of immensely challenging and intimate scenes, these two are perfectly matched and compelling to watch. Connor Olsson-Jones gives an emotionally-charged and engaging performance as Moritz, although seems more confident with acting than with his voice work. The cast is solid and enjoyable, excelling in their harmony and ensemble work, but with some cast members struggling with pitch in solo vocals. For an opening night performance of a vocally-demanding show, the cast were impressive.

The direction and choreography of the show strike a balance between mimicking professional productions and putting their own spin on the show, something that doesn’t always happen enough in amateur theatre.

It is interesting that, in a scene where Melchior is attending reformatory school and is assaulted by a group of boys, the sexual content is toned down. When Hills Musical Company have, on the whole, embraced all the other risqué moments in the show and readily presented the audience with a plethora of controversial material, it seemed like an odd choice (and quite contrary to the anti-censorship message of the show) to suddenly skirt around one of the show’s many explicit moments. But, for those who have not seen bootleg versions of the show thousands of times, this would not be noticeable and does not take away from the skilled creative direction of the show.

One of the most visually-arresting elements of the show was the set. Although video projections are often overused in an awkward attempt to seem current, “Spring Awakening”’s use of video was much more skilled and insightful (if a little heavy handed with its messaging in the beginning). Mixing the high-tech and the low-tech, the set also featured some innovative, transformative elements – see the show yourself and you’ll see.

Although Adelaide has proven time and time again that it never tires of classics like “Les Misérables” and “My Fair Lady”, it’s always exciting to see companies trying something different and challenging. The Hills Musical Company have been brave here, and it’s paid off. Even though reliving the uncertain and angst-filled days of your adolescence (except with less sex ed and more musical fondling) sounds terrifying, I highly suggest you be brave too and see the show.