A year after being designated one of the state’s first five cultural districts, the Rocky Neck community has sprung to life for the summer, with a $154,000 state cultural facilities grant en route to help the art colony purchase its centerpiece building in the historic old church building on Wonson Street, and the “Nights on the Neck” series having kicked off last week.
But perhaps the boldest step to date has come from one of the cultural district’s founding members, the Gloucester Stage Co., which — in a promising season featuring plays such as Israel Horovitz’s Gloucester-based “North Shore Fish,” which premieres next week, and a September production of “Driving Miss Daisy” with one-time Academy Award nominee Linsday Crouse — has opened its season with a stunning rendition of the Tony Award-winning “Spring Awakening.”
Theater general manager Andrew Burgreen and Artistic Director Eric Engel, who also directs this piece, deserve credit for pressing the envelope on several fronts with this acclaimed rock musical, which, in its initial 2007 Broadway run, featured “Glee’s” Leah Michele and Jonathan Groff. For one thing, they scheduled it for a four-week run, longest in at least the last five years. And, from Engel’s standpoint, the cast is fittingly dominated by youth, with nine of the 12 performers making their GSC debuts and two — like Ross Mumford, who plays Moritz, the second male lead — kicking off their professional stage careers.
The result? A power-packed, energetic production that does writers Steve Sater and Duncan Sheik proud, and one that should give actor Melody Madarasz — who earned a Boston theater IRNE Award nomination for her GSC debut in last year’s “Crimes of the Heart” – another for her performance as the female focal point, Wendla Bergman.
With occasional harsh language, a simulated sex scene and young adult themes, “Spring Awakening” isn’t for everybody. But for those interested in taking in a poignant drama backed by a powerful musical score, it is truly what contemporary theater — and progressive culture on the Neck — is all about.
This is the final weekend; it deserves checking out.