Monday, December 11, 2006

Waking Up To Critical Acclaim

Waking Up To Critical Acclaim

Last evening, Spring Awakening completed its transfer from Off-Broadway to the Great White Way’s Eugene O’Neill Theatre. The critics are fairly uniform in their praise of the show.

Calling its arrival “exhilarating,” David Rooney of Variety says: “[I]ntegrity and a refusal to condescend are arguably the primary achievements of Michael Mayer's striking production….Spring Awakening has an authenticity that connects the show directly to the generation being depicted....(Steven) Sater's book and lyrics seem to capture from within the uniquely teenage feeling that every emotion is the most tempestuous, frightening, passionate or exciting one ever experienced. Factor in (Duncan) Sheik's melodic alt-rock score, which shifts easefully between dreamy and driving modes, Mayer's highly physical direction, choreographer Bill T. Jones' convulsive movement and some of the richest, most full-bodied ensemble singing heard on Broadway in a long time, and you have a show that bristles with rawness, vitality and urgency.”

Heralding the experience as a “rewarding one,” Charles Isherwood of The New York Times also strikes a laudatory note: “A straight shot of eroticism steamed open last night at the Eugene O’Neill Theater under the innocuous name of Spring Awakening, and Broadway, with its often puerile sophistication and its sterile romanticism, may never be the same…[T]his brave new musical, haunting and electrifying by turns, restores the mystery, the thrill and quite a bit of the terror to that shattering transformation that stirs in all our souls sometime around the age of 13, well before most of us have the intellectual apparatus in place to analyze its impact…Michael Mayer’s seamless direction works hand in hand with the inventive but unshowy choreography of Bill T. Jones to give potent physical expression to the turbulent impulses of adolescents living splintered lives.”

Proclaiming this a “must-see musical” in his four-star review, New York Post’s Clive Barnes is also singing Spring Awakening’s praises: “The good is rare enough in the theater, but the excellent is . . . well, just excellent. And so it was at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre last night when the gritty, groundbreaking Spring Awakening gave an unexpected jolt of sudden genius to wake up the hidebound Broadway musical. The electricity is generated by a terrific tribe of young actors working with an authentic pop-rock score by Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik that punches its story home. But in the final count, the night is made heart-rending and magical by themes common to all - youth and dependency, just the weird human chemistry of growing up.”

New York’s Daily News’ Joe Dziemianowicz also cheers the show’s arrival: “Great news for theatergoers who have craved a new musical with attitude, youthful exuberance and a fresh, gutsy sound: Spring Awakening…is what they've been seeking…. Director Michael Mayer has cast the show impeccably and matched his ensemble with equally inventive staging….For a show that left me so high, it is probably nitpicking to say that Act II occasionally drags.”

“Beautiful, messy, exhilarating, awkward, vital” are all adjectives that USA Today's Elysa Gardner uses to describe Spring Awakening in her three and a half star review: “But Spring is at once a less polished and more resonant work….Sheik approaches the stage with the fresh eyes and open mind of an artist accustomed to an entirely different tradition. In doing so, Spring's composer manages to deliver lovely, graceful pop melodies that work in a theatrical context -- that is, to propel a story and elucidate its characters. Sheik's score is actually a more authentic example of musical theater than the spectacle-driven scenery showcases and movie-based wink-fests currently lighting up Times Square….The tender supporting cast is similarly appealing and convincing.”

The Associated Press’ Michael Kuchwara puts his stamp of approval on the show, saying it is “a remarkable rock musical that has transferred from off-Broadway to Broadway's Eugene O'Neill Theatre with all its potent, gutsy theatricality intact….What they have done here is upend traditional musical theater….[T]he show, directed with driving force by Michael Mayer, has astonishing unity, a clarity of purpose. The songs comment on the action, which Mayer pushes with blazing speed.”

Like High Fidelity, another rocking musical that opened this past week, the advance ticket sales have been weak; however, unlike the other show, Spring Awakening appears to be the real deal. Can critical acclaim wake up the box office? That’s the $64,000 question since the supposed target audience is a decidedly younger audience -- one with arguably less disposable income to spend on pricey Broadway theatre tickets.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
Spring Awakening Blossoms On Broadway Tonight (December 10, 2006)
Curtains To Rise At Al Hirschfeld Theatre In March (November 3, 2006)
Mary Poppins, Grey Gardens Tops Among SOB Readers (October 27, 2006)
How Sheik: Spring Awakenings To Receive Broadway Transfer (July 20, 2006)

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At 31 December, 2006, Anonymous Chris said...

I think this show appeals to everyone, not just youths. The issues are universal and timeless. The best broadway musical I have seen in years (and I'm 49).


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