Saturday, December 08, 2007

I've Got Spring Fever

Unexpectedly, I also got the chance to see Spring Awakening this weekend. And what a great, great show it was. Is. No wonder this won the Tony Award back in June for Best Musical — and Best Direction, Score, and five others. Spring Awakening is so full of energy, so full of passion, so full of life that it's hard not to be moved or shaken to the core while watching it. I haven't liked a new show this much in, oh, I don't know how long.

Based on Frank Wedekind's controversial 1891 play, Spring Awakening tells a story of sexual discovery among a group of German teenagers. Most have been sheltered from learning anything about sex, puberty, or any such topic — one, Wendla (the very pretty Lea Michele), is an aunt twice over and still doesn't know where the children came from — by their parents and teachers, who stifle independent thought and ignore teenage curiosities. When Moritz (Tony winner John Gallagher Jr.) is fraught with guilt and confusion about the effects of puberty that are resulting in strange dreams and other feelings, he consults the more knowing Melchior (Jonathan Groff), whose parents have educated him about such things. But while Melchior is clearly the more grounded of the two for knowing so much about the world, Moritz is more unsettled by the information and he descends into a downward spiral.

Though the setting is Germany in the 1890s, the sound and choreography are of the modern era. Songs have been written by Duncan Sheik (best known for the mid-1990s hit "Barely Breathing") and Steven Sater, and with titles like "The Bitch of Living" and "Totally Fucked," they are very much not your typical Broadway showtunes. Instead, they are rock/pop songs, and as sung by the unbelievably talented cast — especially, but not limited to, those already mentioned — they are like anthems of identity, independence, and strength. The dancing style (if you can call it dance) mixes the repression of the show's setting with contemporary freedom — there's a lot of foot stomping — and the combination of song and movement is thrilling. It didn't take long for the music of Spring Awakening to burrow a hole into my brain and make a comfortable home there. As opposed to how it was with the other show this weekend, I was singing these songs all the way home.

And further, not since Rent has a show dealt with such heavy topics (not just sex but also suicide and abortion, among others) in such a compelling way that appeals to young audiences. (And wow, what a graphic sex scene at the show's center.)

Spring Awakening was one of the most exciting nights of theater I've had in some time; I can't wait to see it again. And again. And again. Until then, I have the soundtrack and the script, and videos like the one below of the cast performing "The Bitch of Living," my favorite song from the show, to recapture the experience. If you're in New York and you haven't yet seen this show, please, don't hesitate to get tickets.

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