“Spring Awakening” is based off a 19th Century German play that was considered so shocking, so edgy, and so controversial that it was banned. Watching it today I have to say...it’s pretty shocking even in this day and age. Here is a show that has explicit language, deals with teenage sexuality, puberty, molestation, abuse, religion, thoughtless parents, cowards, and suicide (to name a few). All set a rock opera book (ala “Rent” style). Watching the show was a bit of a process for me. The story revolves mainly around two protagonists. The first protagonist is Wendla, a young woman who is starting to bud into a woman, but is ill equipped for the sexual experiments she is about to partake in.
The second protagonist is Melchoire, a bright young man who becomes an atheist after he questions why the church is so afraid of things that make him feel good. These two will be the moral compass for their friends, all of whom have varying degrees of problems. When the show started I wasn’t entirely impressed. The first few songs were less then good and the story was extremely rough for a musical. Once the musical number “The Bitch of Living” played the show got better musically, but why was I still not connecting to it? My diagnosis was that there were too many controversial problems and not enough room to breath.
The second half saved the show by wrapping all these stories up in a way that made sense. Some people have happy endings. Some don’t. Some don’t even live to see the end of the show. Then the show does something unique: It asks us to debate the issues of the story to ourselves. Yes sexual experimentation is bad for kids (and in an era without condoms it’s particularly dangerous), but then what hope have the parents offered them? They pretend sex is a bad thing, they don’t explain why it’s a sin, and one woman even outright refuses to tell her daughter what sex is and what happens as a result.
When the daughter winds up in the worse situation out of all of them the mother shouldn’t be surprised but, alas, she is. So on one hand you have commentary that lack of information was the cause for some of the kids reckless experimentations. On the other hand you have one of the main characters who was given more knowledge then most, and he doesn’t use that knowledge wisely. Turns out kids are just kids in the end. Who’s right and who’s wrong? Hard to say, and the story doesn’t explicitly give us a straight answer either. “Spring Awakening” isn’t the first Broadway production to tackle the issue of sex nor will it be the last.
What it does do though is take some very tough and daring topics and present them in a way that’s digestible and fun. Though the second half is more serious and depressing then the first half it’s still more entertaining thanks to some truly excellent songs. My favorite song I can’t name because the title is too explicit to share on a family friendly site, but when you hear it you’ll agree that it’s hard not to dance along with it. Though it’s flawed in many ways I walked away from it pretty impressed and loving it more upon contemplation. And that’s the key word there because, really, when was the last time you seriously thought about issues raised in a Broadway musical?
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Spring Awakening is a Tony Award-winning rock musical with music by Duncan Sheik and book and lyrics by Steven Sater. The musical is based on the controversial 1891 German play of the same title by Frank Wedekind. Set in late-nineteenth century Germany, it concerns teenagers who are discovering the inner and outer tumult of sexuality. The original play was banned in Germany due to its portrayal of masturbation, abortion, rape and suicide. In the musical, alt-rock is employed as part of the folk-infused rock score. During the musical, characters sometimes break the fourth wall to express their motivations and desires directly to the audience.
After a number of workshops, concerts and rewrites over a seven-year period, Spring Awakening premiered Off-Broadway at the Atlantic Theatre Company on May 19, 2006 and ran through August 17, 2006. The show then opened on Broadway at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre on December 10, 2006 and received favorable reviews. Spring Awakening received eleven 2007 Tony Award nominations, winning eight, including Tonys for best musical, direction, book, score and featured actor. The show also won four Drama Desk Awards, including Outstanding Musical. The production is directed by Michael Mayer and choreographed by Bill T. Jones.
Decca Broadway released the original cast recording on December 12, 2006, which won the Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album in 2008. The guitar Sheik used to compose songs for Spring Awakening is on display at the New York ...