`Spring Awakening’s’ Kyle Riabko in SF concert

Second Annual Next Generation Rainforest Foundation Benefit

Kyle Riabko has two jobs: he’s starring as Melchior in the national tour of Spring Awakening, now at San Francisco’s Curran Theatre through Oct. 12. He’s also a rising Canadian pop star who scored a hit with “What Did I Get Myself Into” from his 2005 album Before I Speak.

While Riabko is in town, he’ll promote the release of his new album, The Parkdale Sessions, with a concert at Café du Nord on Oct. 7 at 10 p.m. He shares the bill with local singer/songwriter Garrin Benfield. Tickets are $12. Call 415-861-5016 or visit www.cafedunord.com for information.

The CD is slated for release on Sept. 15.

The new album features two songs from Spring Awakening: “Left Behind” and “The Guilty Ones.’ It also includes one of his earliest hits, “Song for Amanda,” written for the actress Amanda Bynes.

Riabko, 20, has opened for Maroon 5, Ryan Cabrerra and John Mayer.
Second Annual Next Generation Rainforest Foundation Benefit

On the night of the concert, Riabko has a performance at the Curran. Presumably Benfield will open the show, and Riabko will scurry to Café du Nord as quickly as his Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-born legs can carry him.

For Spring Awakening information, visit www.shnsf.com.


Review: `Spring Awakening’

Opened Sept. 7, 2008 at the Curran Theatre, San Francisco

Kyle Riabko and Christy Altomare are Melchior and Wendla, the doomed lovers in Spring Awakening, the Tony Award-winning musical that launched its national tour at San Francisco’s Curran Theatre. Photos by Paul Kolnik.


Sex, violence and rock ‘n’ roll: `Spring Awakening’ jolts San Francisco

It’s appropriate that on the very same night Rent ended its 12-year run on Broadway, Spring Awakening officially launched its national tour at San Francisco’s Curran Theatre as part of the SHN/Best of Broadway season.

Both shows re-imagine older texts – for Rent it was Puccini’s La Boheme, for Spring Awakening it was Frank Wedekind’s 1891 German play of the same name – and infuse them with elements of pop, rock and Broadway. And each show in its own way has taken musical theater a step away from extinction.

Unlike Rent, which never really had a chance to be finished, Spring Awakening is an expertly crafted masterwork in the art of musical theater. The show, with book and lyrics by Steven Sater and music by Duncan Sheik, connects on a powerfully emotional and visceral level. It breaks all the rules and dares to be as bold as it is beautiful.

The national touring company that opened Sunday night is every bit as good as the original Broadway company – in some cases better — and the production itself is just as electrifying. The young performers, ranging in age from 18 to 27, attack the piece with gusto and don’t shy away from the sex, nudity, masturbation, violence and rock ‘n’ roll rebellion that infuses its 2 ½ hours.

Director Michael Mayer maintains firm control over the proceedings, guiding his vibrant young performers to an astonishing level of honesty as they veer between the late 19th-century play about adult repression of hormonal teenagers and the 21st-century rock concert that unleashes a torrent of emotions. It helps that Christine Jones’ set keeps things simple (with audience members seated on the right and left sides of the stage) for the scenes and then allows Kevin Adams’ gorgeous lighting design to wash over the stage and provide rock concert energy during the songs.

Heading the cast is Kyle Riabko as Melchior Gabor, a bright young man “of distinct intellectual capacity,” as Sater puts it, and Blake Bashoff as Moritz Stiefel, a “neurasthenic imbecile” and Melchior’s best friend.

Moritz, with his punk-rock haircut and desperate face, is the show’s anti-hero with a too-active mind (and libido) and nowhere to channel his considerable energies. Bashoff’s take on the character is more comic to start, but when, in Act 2, Moritz’s story turns tragic, Bashoff is like an exposed nerve, and his pain is palpable, most notably in the raging “Don’t Do Sadness.”

Melchior is a much smoother character, but he has his share of inner turmoil, which Riabko communicates effectively. In the devastating second act, this young Canadian rock star proves himself an actor of considerable depth and commitment. He gives a great performance and bears the emotional weight of the play in his extraordinary ballad “Those You’ve Known.”

Christy Altomare is Wendla Bergman, a curious young woman who inspires the show’s (and the original play’s) most provocative scene when she asks Melchior to beat her because her comfortable life has been so devoid of acute feeling or sensation. Stunningly beautiful and with a voice to match, Altomare is entirely believable as someone trapped in the chasm between child and adult, and her performance of “Whispering,” a ballad tinged with hope and tragedy, is shattering.

The power of the entire ensemble, which includes Angela Reed and Henry Stram as all the adult characters, is undeniable, especially when they join voices on songs such as “Touch Me,” “I Believe” and the exquisite, heart-rending “Song of Purple Summer.” AnnMarie Milazzo’s vocal arrangements find the rich textures of Sheik’s gorgeous music, and music director Jared Stein is able to take his seven-piece band from the delicate chamber sound to full-on rock ‘n’ roll rage.

And then there are those incredible moments of chaos amid the sadness and balladry. First we get the boys, in the midst of a stern, abusive Latin lesson, breaking into “The Bitch of Living,” and then we get the entire cast exploding into teenage anarchy in “Totally F***ed.” Both numbers feature the extraordinary choreography of Bill T. Jones, whose gestural vocabulary, built slowly and subtly throughout the show, erupts into a storm of bodies punctuating the air with expressed anger and the joy of sweet release.

We’ve been told that in musicals, the songs should forward the story or reveal character, but here, Sheik and Sater’s songs don’t usually do that. They’re more like emotional commentary, a bridge between the late 1800s and now. It’s a score that is immediately appealing and accessible but that rewards the listener with something new on every listen.

The cast performs expertly — Steffi D as Ilse, a young woman cast out of her home to fend for herself, makes a huge impression on “Blue Wind” – but there are places where more performance experience will reveal further depths.

That said, there’s no denying the power and sheer beauty of this remarkable show.

Will Spring Awakening have the staying power of Rent? I’d venture to say it will have more than staying power: it will go down in musical history as one of the greats.


Spring Awakening continues through Oct. 12 at the Curran Theatre, 445 Geary St., San Francisco. Tickets are $30-$99. Call 415-512-7770 or visit www.shnsf.com or www.ticketmaster.com for information.

`Spring’ into action

We here at TheaterDogs are about to kick into high gear with Spring Awakening, which officially kicks off its national tour (after a “preview” run in San Diego) Sept. 4 (official opening night is Sunday, Sept. 7) at the Curran Theatre.

In the next couple weeks, you can expect interviews with composer Duncan Sheik, lyricist/book writer Steven Sater, director Michael Mayer, producer Tom Hulce and choreographer Bill T. Jones.

To kick things off, you should check out the podcast interview with Mayer on the SHN/Best of Broadway Web site here: http://shnsf.com/podcast/index.asp

You can subscribe to SHN’s podcasts here: http://shnsf.com/podcast/podcasts_rss.asp

Now here’s a glimpse of the touring cast as they prepare for performances in San Diego:

For ticket information visit www.shnsf.com.

SF `Spring Awakening’ tix on sale; Riabko video

Tickets for the launch of the Spring Awakening national tour go on sale Sunday, July 20.

The tour of the eight-time Tony Award-winning rock musical by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater kicks off at San Francisco’s Curran Theatre Sept. 4 through Oct. 12 as part of the SHN/Best of Broadway series.

Tickets will range in price from $30 to $99 and beginning Sunday, July 20, can be purchased online at www.shnsf.com, through Ticketmaster by calling 415-512-7770 and at all Ticketmaster Ticket Centers. On Monday, July 21 tickets will also be available at the Orpheum Theatre Box Office (1192 Market St., Mon-Sat 10am – 6pm).

Here’s the performance schedule:
8 p.m. Tuesdays–Fridays; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; 1 and 6 p.m. Sundays. Added performance Sunday, Sept. 7 at 6:30 p.m. and Wednesday, Oct. 8 at 2 p.m.
No performance Sunday, Sept. 7 at 1 p.m.

The tour will star Canadian pop star Kyle Riabko as Melchior Gabor. He’s currently doing the show on Broadway. Here’s an intro to Riabko. Keep in mind some fan literally filmed his/her television to get this footage (thanks, fan!), so the quality is not great.

`Spring Awakening’ tour news

The national tour of the Tony Award-winning Duncan Sheik-Steven Sater musical Spring Awakening is growing ever closer. Performances begin Sept. 4 at San Francisco’s Curran Theatre as part of the SHN/Best of Broadway season, and though that will be here before we know it, here’s a little casting news to fill the void.

Current Broadway SA cast members Kyle Riabko (Melchior Gabor), far right, and Blake Bashoff (Moritz Steiffel) will depart the New York cast to reprise their roles on tour.

Stepping into the role of Melchior on Broadway will be Hunter Parrish, right, who’s best known as Silas on Showtime’s “Weeds.”

For information about the San Francisco stop of the tour, visit www.shnsf.com or visit the official Spring Awakening site: www.springawakening.com

Here’s a little video action from the Spring Awakening kids.