Thursday, September 4, 2008

It's about what?!

If you saw Spring Awakening on the Tonys, you saw all the good bits. If you missed it, watch it here. I wouldn't positively tell you not to go see it, by I was by no means wowed.

Part of this, my friend authoritatively tells me, is due to the fact that the cast is all new, and not particularly strong (with one or two exceptions). They have nice voices, but the change in intensity from the Tonys performance is obvious even if you only view the latter on YouTube. Still, it didn't stop many people in the relatively young audience from oohing and aahing over it during the intermission and afterwards.

The book is based on Frank Wedekind's story of sexual awakening in turn of the century Germany, not your typical musical fare. Male and female students, educated separately, are all struggling to learn the facts of life. Innocent Wendla encounters childhood friend Melchior, a young nihilist hidden behind the facade of the perfect student; struggling Moritz, the worst student and Melchior's best friend, encounters runaway childhood friend Ilse, now living in an artists' colony, too late to save himself. It all ends in death of various kinds and lots of mournful ballads that all sound the same.

The high-energy thumping numbers that open the show gave promise of a Rent for a new generation, which is pretty much what it is regardless of my opinion. I just don't think it has Rent's energy or colorful personalities, or for that matter its now nostalgic NYC setting. There's one more in the second act, "I'm Fucked," which gets the show going again, but it ends with a "Seasons of Love" type number about "Purple Summer." I know I'm drawing all of these comparisons after eschewing the Les Mis comparisons for Two Cities, but hey, it was in my mind.

The blocking is very dynamic, with the cast mostly running back and forth from sitting in old-fashioned school chairs on the sides (where audience members can also buy tickets), and a good use of the stage space -- poor Melchior has to go sit on a naughty chair twelve feet up in the air, vault a fence, etc. Platforms raise and sink, lights on the back of the stage and sides of the theater flash on and off -- it's a high energy staging. The adult characters are all played by one man and woman, which as my friend observed has the benefit of being economically responsible and symbolic of the older generation's ineffective conservatism, regardless of their attitudes. Actually, I've talked myself into it: I would recommend it. But more for interest than the wow.

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