– by Jen Perry
Spring Awakening is a rock musical written by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater, based on the German play written by Frank Wedekind in 1891. It has been staged on Broadway since 2006 and has in that time won a host of Tony awards. Players are named Melchior, Moritz, Wendla, Ilse and a host of other turn-of-the-century traditional German monikers. In many ways, these conflations of the old and the new, interwoven throughout a work about teenagers living in strict religious upbringing, are the crux of the musical. To put it lightly, Spring Awakening has more ‘teachable moments’ than an episode of Glee.
The young men and women of the show deal with everything from sexual assault, the onset of puberty, suicide, depression, homelessness, to uncaring or ambivalent authority figures – and all this against a backdrop of live drumbeats and choreographed dancing. These kids really do have it tough.
Presented by Fresh Bred Productions, this version of Spring Awakening was a true spectacle from start to finish. From laughing to a cleverly staged self-love scene to being horrified at a nebulous sexual attack before the second act, I can say with full authority that each actor on stage committed valiantly to their respective roles. In my opinion, this is the very reason to go and see the show.
Spring Awakening has often been praised for its willingness to tackle sensitive, often uncomfortable issues that teenagers face on the stage. While I would agree that the play certainly presents these issues, it does little to unravel or unpack them to any effective degree. Instead, the audience is left with a series of vignettes of horror, at times incongruous to the plot and barely explained. I know that musicals tend to do this. After all, there are only so many minutes in a production and songs take up a large portion of that time. I was left, however, wanting more than I could conceivably get in span of 2 hours.
Notable standouts include Melchior played by Finn Alexander and Wendla played by Madeline Crofts. Crofts’ voice was radiant, clear and enchanting and her acting brimming with sincerity. Alexander’s performance was incredibly impressive, having to portray cockiness, wariness, depression and anguish against the backdrop of youthful assuredness. The live band was also wonderful, although at times the logistics with the technology meant that actors’ voices were drowned out.
I would recommend seeing Spring Awakening if only for the excellent performances put on by all the cast members. Their dedication from first to last in what I clearly think is a challenging play, is something to see.
Trigger warning: please note that Spring Awakening is suitable for persons aged 15+ and there is confronting material involving nudity, swearing, sexual violence and other thematic elements.
Images courtesy of Fresh Bred Productions.