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We're in the midst of an unplanned rock musical festival (Tommy at the Rep, Little Shop of Horrors at Cygnet, Hairspray at Moonlight, and upcoming: Rocky Horror at the Old Globe and Jesus Christ Superstar at La Jolla Playhouse). Through this weekend, add the Actors Conservatory Theatre's slam-bang production of easily one of the best musicals of the last decade.

As in the story, where repressed German teens burst out, the young cast jumps from zero to 60 in a heartbeat - even during a song - then often shoots back to zero as quickly. The play pulses and throbs with rarely a middle ground.

Director Leigh Scarritt, choreographer Tiffany Jane, and musical director Shane Simmons deftly evoke the jagged emotions, the flows and ebbs, of the tormented teens.

Frank Wedekind wrote the original play in 1891. He called it a "tragedy of childhood" and depicts sexual repression and the false morality and intolerance of the powers that be. They took offense - especially the parents and teachers Wedekind dedicated the play to - and it was banned.

Like Anne Frank's diary, Wedekind was also "frank." Neither holds back. Nor does the musical, which won eight Tony Awards in 2007.

ACT teaches young people the arts of theater. If Spring Awakening's an example, they're doing quality work. Although the production includes local adult veterans (Eileen Bowman, Douglas Lay, Daniel Forsgren, and Fred Harlow, all in good form), the students power the show with energy and talent. And given the spotlight, Charlie Gange (Melchior), Michael Parrott (Georg) and many others belt with verve.

Foremost among them: Derrick Gaffney's Mortiz. Making warped, Picasso-like movements, he's a visual emblem of his pain. And he sings like a rock star.

Spring Awakening's at the Coronado School of the Arts Theatre. Over the bridge, left on Orange, right on Sixth.

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Prosperina Aug. 14, 2011 @ 5:10 p.m.

thank goodness SOMEone is teaching young people how to act ;-)


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