Spring Awakening Review

17 07 2009


Last night I saw the newest hit musical, Spring Awakening at The Kennedy Center. In the most basic understanding of this show, it is a story about puberty, growing up, and the life of confused teenagers. The musical basically shows us what happens when kids are not properly taught about sex education, whether that means in school, by their parents, or their peers. The production I saw has won a number of awards and was a really fun experience, however, there some things I would like to discuss.

The setting of Spring Awakening (“a provincial German town in the 1890s”) was either a) completely unnecessary or b) not pronounced enough. The only way the audience was made aware of this setting was through the character names (such as “Ilse,” “Hanschen,” “Moritz,” and “Melchior (pronounced: Milky-OR)”) and the costumes. The set was very vague looking, had a ton of neon lights, and didn’t seem to be especially German. –This was all extremely distracting to me throughout the musical, and I couldn’t seem to get over the disconnect between the representation of the setting and the story. The production would have been just as successful in a monotonous black box with all black costumes; thus putting a much greater emphasis on the music and plot.

The music was genuinely really good and catchy. The score was rock meets pop with gospel influences. The energy was very similar to that of such shows like, Rent, Next To Normal, Hair, and Jesus Christ Super Star. The lyrics were modern with song titles such as, “The Bitch of Living,” “My Junk,” and “Totally Fucked.” The sound was fun and hip and I could imagine listening to the soundtrack for weeks.

The band was likely my favorite part of the show. It was a small, eight-piece band which was featured at the back of the stage. [A major shout-out to Conductor/Keyboardist, Jared Stein! My family and I met his father on a recent trip to Cleveland, Ohio where Jared’s father turned out to be the man behind the counter who helped us at the famous deli, Corky & Lenny’s.]

My favorite song of the show was, “The Dark I Know Well,” which was about physically abusive parents. I loved the low, sultry Alto voices of actresses, Sarah Hunt (Martha) and Steffi D (Ilse). Their voices were similar to the sound of Janice Joplin, only minus Joplin’s well known scratchiness.

“The Dark I Know Well” Spring Awakening(On Broadway) Video by plasticsoul – MySpace Video

The memorable song, “Totally Fucked,” is pretty identical to the commercials Twix candy bars have been making recently. Twix’s new slogan is, “When you need a moment, chew it over with Twix.”

(Blogging? I love blogging!)

This is the same message as the song in Spring Awakening. In “Totally Fucked,” a teen is caught between a rock and a hard place and is, as the songs says, “totally fucked.” He has no choice but to get in big trouble and so in his last “moments of freedom,” he breaks into song and dance –his Twix, if you will.

Also, this song features a chorus where the entire cast is singing the word, “blah.” While this was possibly creative  in the lyrics department, it certainly was not original. The Gorillaz also have used “blah’s” in their song, “Rock It.”

The show was unique and disturbing in a very uncomfortable and awkward sexual way. Such highlights include a song about masturbation (which prominently shows a guy pleasuring himself, center stage); two full-on heterosexual sex scenes involving a naive virgin girl, which featured a bare-breast and the enactment of an orgasm and thrusting; my favorite – a homosexual love scene which had some kissing; and lastly, abortion and suicide.

However, I need to point out that during the gay scene, the audience seemed to find it humorous. Maybe the laughter was due to an unfortunate discomfort of the audience. Yet, during the heterosexual sex scene, the audience was dead silent. I thought this was very unfair to the subject of homosexuality.

Another point I would like to touch on was that all of the adults in the musical were played by two people; a man and a woman. This became extremely confusing since there was no costume change or anything to really help the audience know who the actors were portraying. An especially confusing example of this was a back-and-forth scene between the husband and wife for each of two teenagers. The audience is left to figure out when the actors switch from one set of parents to the next. Maybe a more successful way to portray the idea that “all adults are the same” would just be to get more people to play the adults but dress them all the same.

I would give this show an 8 out of 10. It was fun and highly entertaining, even though on a number of occasions, the plot was unbearably predictable and made me want to walk out (I didn’t). Also, beware for yet another musical/story to be heavily influenced by the over-done, “Romeo & Juliet” story line. Some of Spring Awakening’s lines seemed to be direct copies from Shakespeare’s play. Anyways, I would definitely recommend this show, but remember that it is R-rated, for nudity, profane language, violence, and sexual content. Enjoy the show!



5 responses

17 07 2009

Funny you went to the show the same day my review of it came out. I really liked the shows and now the songs are stuck in my head.

You know what’s better than The Bitch of Living? The Bitch of Living in Japanese!!!!

17 07 2009

Nice review you got yourself there. As for the song in Japanese, it was cool but I was overwhelmed by all the face close-ups! ha.

21 07 2009

Great review! I have never seen Spring Awakening, but I have listened to the soundtrack. I have been curious to see how it translates on stage. Thanks for writing the review and providing insight. 🙂

21 07 2009

Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed reading it. You should definitely go see the show, if you’ve been listening to the music!

8 11 2010
HAIR Review « C.A.P.S.love.

[…] reminded me at times of another show I saw in the exact same theater at the Kennedy Center. Both Spring Awakening and “Hair” involve a lot of having sex and sexual movements on the stage. Honestly, it […]

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