Lust. Domestic violence. Sex. Abortion. Questioning authority. Suicide. Rape. All of these are elements of the book Spring Awakening, written by German writer Frank Wedekind in the early ’90s. The 1890s. This may explain why the book was banned in Germany and in English-speaking countries for decades.
Most, though not all, of those same elements, plus a large dollop of indie-rock written by Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik, appear in the 2007 Tony winner for Best Musical, Spring Awakening, playing at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady February 16-21.
The wife’s Valentine’s Day present for us was a pair of tickets to the opening night this past Tuesday. Really, all we knew of the show was what we saw on the Tonys, and that was almost three years ago.
So we got a babysitter and hoofed it over a few blocks to Central Avenue in Albany to catch the bus to Schenectady. We had gotten 5.3″ of snow that day, the most the city had received in 2010. For the record, CDTA got us there (and back) quite adequately, thank you.
Before the show begins, I am awed by the set. There is no curtain so it’s just there. You can see snippets of it in the Tony performance, but it hardly does it justice. Bleachers are both stage left (two rows) and stage right (three rows) and people are already sitting out there when the principles come onto the stage to sit with them. So the excellent, eclectic band is likewise on the stage from the beginning, everything from keyboards and drums to a cello? But it works.
As for the technical aspects of the performance, I was also wowed by the choreography. Not just dance per se, but how the players moved about the stage, passing off or getting microphones. The lighting was also first rate.
The fist three songs advanced the story quite well, high energy and great entertainment value. Yet the core action at the end of the first act, which involved a couple of the aforementioned elements felt, for want of a better word, stagy.
Somehow, the second act redeemed it for us, with the best song in show, the tune that got the biggest audience reaction, and the one that my dear wife says we all feel now and then, Totally F***ed (I’m serious here: NSFW or for sensitive ears, big time.)
If you see it, and you should, then it will help to know that two people play all the adult roles; in the production we saw, both actors appeared in various episodes of the Law & Order franchise, which is no surprise. Spring Awakening is ultimately “a cross-generational phenomenon that continues to transcend age and cultural barriers,” as the promos suggest, and I am thinking that a greater knowledge of the plot will help the novice theater goer appreciate it more.
Something I didn’t know until recently: Lea Michele, who plays the annoying but talented Rachel on the TV show Glee, was the lead in the Broadway production of Spring Awakening.
And now the musical will become a movie. Not sure just how that’ll play. I can’t really imagine it, but then I couldn’t fathom M*A*S*H being a weekly television series, either.
A review of the Wednesday’s performance suggested a small-than-expected crowd. We felt the same way about Tuesday’s performance, but I had attributed the smallish crowd to the weather. I theorize that, despite its awards, it’s pretty much an unknown commodity, relatively speaking; I mean, it’s not South Pacific.