Based on a 116 year old German play by Frank Wedekind, it’s hard to believe that a Broadway tuner could elicit such overwhelming power from its source material. But with teen sex, incest, self abuse, gay lust, suicide and abortion playing prominently in the plotline, Spring Awakening is not exactly your grandfather’s musical.
Credit Michael Mayer’s expert direction for enabling this show that grapples with 19th Century German teen angst to motor on at a brisk, riveting pace.
That said, much of Steven Sater’s book on the sexual maturation of teens still comes across as surprisingly predictable. As "shocking" as the material was clearly intended to be, I found myself easily figuring out where this was all headed.
Chief among them is the sensational Jonathan Groff as the bad boy with brains Melchior. He holds what the show’s “adults” (Christine Esterbrook and Stephen Spinella, both excellent) view as an indecent corrupting influence over mediocre student Moritz (a breathtaking John Gallagher, Jr. in a sharp, stunning departure from his role in last year’s Rabbit Hole).
But with sensual charm to spare, Melchior seduces sexually naïve Wendla (an enchanting Lea Michele). The chemistry between the two young lovers is both vital and raw. Only, such outward emotionally charged displays are strictly verboten in this provincial German town, and Melchior soon finds himself sent away to a boys’ reformatory for his indulgences.
As I mentioned above, very adult themes are laid bare in this show. Certainly, this show is not for everyone. Spring Awakening ultimately is highly entertaining, yet I could not help but think that its two most dynamic songs would likely repulse the sensibilities of many who look toward musical theatre as an escape from life’s woes rather than an entrée into them.
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Spring Awakening Rouses Box Office; Cast To Appear At Big Apple Store (December 12, 2006)
Waking Up To Critical Acclaim (December 11, 2006)
Spring Awakening Blossoms On Broadway Tonight (December 10, 2006)
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