Right before the holidays hit last week, I saw a new Broadway musical called Spring Awakening. I was excited to see the show for a number of reasons, namely because I haven’t seen a Broadway musical in YEARS and also because the music was written by my very first pop star crush, Duncan Sheik.
Freshly transplanted from its Off-Broadway location at the Atlantic Theater, Spring Awakening comes to the Great White Way with a good deal of positive buzz behind it.
I knew nothing of the production other than Duncan wrote the music and that there were many positive reviews from places like the New York Times. According to Broadway.com, the musical adaptation is based on a “controversial” 19th-century play by Frank Wedekind, which was “banned for 71 years” and “boldly depicts how young people navigate the thrilling, confusing and mysterious time of their sexual awakening.” So knowing NONE of that, you can imagine how surprised I was to be in this fancy theater watching someone sing while mock masturbating–and that was just in the first half-hour!
It is set in 1891 in Germany and it’s a story about two groups of teenagers, the boys that attend a private school and the girls that live in the town, and how they fumble into adulthood with little guidance from the adults around them, sometimes with tragic results.
I’m one of those people who needs some time to process plays and musicals after I’ve seen them, so now that it’s almost been a week since I’ve seen the musical, I’ve come to the conclusion that Spring Awakening is…
Initially I was taken aback by the dark, and quite serious subject matter of the play, but I immediately was drawn to the music. I haven’t been keeping up with musicals on Broadway since 2001, but this is the first big time stage production I’ve seen that has truly achieved the feat of being an original, smart, pop rock musical. Even though the songs work with the narrative of the play and move the plots along, they sound like regular pop songs–They feel much less “theater-y” than songs from other “edgy”, contemporary musicals like RENT.
And unlike “pop musicals” like Mama Mia, Movin’ Out, or the tragic trainwreck Times Are A Changin’, these songs were specifically written to be performed as part of a musical theater piece. I think it’s quite an achievement that Duncan and lyricist Steven Sater are able to make the tunes sound like straight up pop songs while still sounding a bit like theater songs. Bravo to you two!
The cast is strong, with Jonathan Groff turning in a fine performance as the school’s number one dreamy bad boy, Melchior, and Lea Michele doing a good job as young and innocent Wendla, but John Gallagher Jr. is the real scene stealer, turning in the most powerful and memorable performance in the cast with his portrayal of Melchior’s troubled best friend, Moritzthe. He totally floored me while singing “Don’t Do Sadness” at the beginning of Act Two. You can listen to a clip of the song on the SA MySpace page.
If you have any vague interest in musical theater, I would recommend you shell out the cash and head above 14th Street (I know, I know) to see this little musical that could. You can get “rush” tickets for around $32 at the box office in advance, but here’s the catch, your seats will be ON the stage. It should be noted, you might not want to bring mom and dad to it without some serious disclosure of the subject matter…er and as a matter of fact, it’s not a date play at all. It’s The Last Kiss of musical theater, if you will.
Check out this preview video of the show to hear some of the music:Or here are some vids of Duncan doing acoustic versions of some of the songs:
“The Song of Purple Summer”
And he sang some of the songs during his “Upstairs at the Square” Barnes & Nobel session.
If you are absolutely dead set on seeing some of it live before you go, or if you just have a great interest in learning about how the musical came to be, head over to the Soho Apple store next week:
Composer, Duncan Sheik will give a rare look inside the creation of the new Broadway musical, Spring Awakening as part of the Apple Store’s “Made on a Mac” series. Producer Tom Hulce will moderate an interactive discussion on the musical’s development and some members of the cast will be on hand to perform.
When: WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 13 6:00PM TO 7:30PM
Where: APPLE STORE, SOHO. 103 Prince Street
The original cast recording comes out December 12th. I can’t wait to get it!
The musical opens December 10th.