Friday, February 09, 2007

Spring Awakening

Last night, Justen and I went to see Spring Awakening with Brent (who was in town for the week). It has been a while since we had seen a show for several reasons--nothing really piqued our interest, and we just never went to get tickets. I am so glad that we decided to go see this show. Duncan Sheik (of the 90's Barely Breathing) and others have adapted Frank Wedekind's 1891 play "Spring Awakening" to this year's Broadway smash. The play centers around a group of teens who are dealing with their burgeoning sexuality juxtaposed with the adult world which is withholding information from them in the name of protecting their innocence.

The cast is an ensemble of fresh-faced young actors (average age here is probably 19) who take on this material with voracity. What RENT was to me years ago is what I feel this will be to young people seeing this today. The music is angst ridden: at times melodic, at times raucous. The stand-out of the cast is definitely John Gallagher, Jr. in his role as Moritz. From the moment he takes the stage in the first number, you can see he has a fully developed character that only comes more to life throughout his subsequent scenes. Also noteworthy is Lea Michelle, playing the female lead role Wendla. Her angelic voice echoes throughout the theatre as pure as a ringing bell from her first scene to the last. Jonathan Groff, who plays the male lead Melchior, comes off a little flat against the colorful supporting characters.

The choreography, done by Bill T. Jones, is at times beautiful and at other times odd. I found the phrase of movement repeated throughout the show to be quite interesting, yet I could decipher no real reason or meaning for it. There were points in the show when I felt that the movement expressed the pent up sexuality of the characters, and other times when it seemed that the characters were simply playing with themselves. or mentally challenged.

The set design and lighting design were brilliantly executed. It is obvious that these two designers worked very closely together to achieve a certain aesthetic. The show is played on a simple acting space with audience on three sides and the band behind. The characters intermingle with the audience, some vocalists are seated as members of the audience the entire time. This Brechtian presentation forces actors to become observers thereby almost making the "audience" another character in the play. I would even go so far as to say that at times, the set and lighting were just as interesting as the characters on stage.

New York Times, New York Post, and USA Today have all called this the best musical of the year. I would have to agree. (But I have not seen any of the others). The raw energy of this show leaps from the stage early in the show (BITCH OF LIVING) and stays strong. Due to plot points being resolved in the second act, the mood is much softer and the energy is a little low. I'd love another big number early in ACT 2, but honestly couldn't imagine where it would go.

Overall, I think that Spring Awakening is the show to beat at this year's Tony's. I hope that this show stays around for a while. It is so refreshing to see something on Broadway that is truly original. Like it or lump it, Spring Awakening is a force to be reckoned with.

Enjoy the clips:

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