'Spring Awakening' Is Vintage Stray Dog

Article excerpt

Stray Dog Theatre's artistic director, Gary F. Bell, typically opens shows with a few words to the audience. On Thursday night, he reminded everyone that this was a big occasion: the opening of Stray Dog's 10th season.

Moving freely between musicals and straight plays, between well- known classics and hot new titles, Stray Dog laughs off categories.

Stray Dog simply makes good theater, theater consistently worth a few hours and a few dollars to anyone who thinks a particular show sounds appealing. That's why "Spring Awakening" makes a stellar choice for a big-anniversary opening. It, too, defies pigeonholes.

Based on an 1891 drama by Frank Wedekind, this Tony-winning musical by writer Steven Sater and composer Duncan Sheik centers on teenagers in a small German town more than 100 years ago. Their culture is nothing like that of American kids today. But their desires, frustrations and fury are precisely the same. In "Spring Awakening," they find the same outlet: rock 'n' roll.

"Spring Awakening" focuses on Melchior (Zach Wachter), a brilliant student everybody likes, his hapless pal Moritz (Ryan Foizey) and pretty, innocent Wendla (Melissa Southmayd). They have known one another all their lives. But nothing has prepared them for the rush of hormones that adolescence brings, or for the crises that follow.

"Spring Awakening" presents their actual lives in dialogue, their emotional lives in anachronistic musical numbers. These are beautifully performed by conductor Chris Petersen's large, onstage ensemble, with strings to enrich the essential rock sound.

Foizey proved a compelling figure on stage last season when he starred in New Line Theatre's production of "Cry-Baby. …