Duncan Sheik: Delivers His First Broadway Baby with “Spring Awakening”

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…


GREAT.

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”

“Blue Wind”

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.

Will Chase Commits Crime Against Indierockdom

As much as I love to support Broadway theater, and as much as I love the fact that Will Chase is a former cast member of RENT, I found his interview with New York magazine to be…well…upsetting. Will is going to be the lead role in the musical theater adaptation of Nick Hornby‘s uber-music geek book, High Fidelity.

Check out this embarrassing exchange between Will and writer Jada Yuan:

NY Mag: Have you studied the clerks at Other Music?

Chase: You mean, what other music do I like?

No, I meant Other Music, the store.

Oh, other music stores?

Never mind.

Will Chase is obviously not a method actor.

Omg. Worst Ever

I’m watching the Tony Awards right now and right now is a number from The Wedding Singer musical. IT IS TOTALLY GIVING ME AN ULCER. I’m embarrassed for America that such a thing exists. Oh, and why does Molly Ringwald have a lazy eye?

Sweeny Todd number made me realize I will never really “get” Sondheim.

I did however really love the Drowsy Chaperone number… and Alan Cumming Threepenny Opera -ing with his Scottish accent. Swuuueeeet.

Red Light Winter, RENT Turns 10, and Elbow

Ok so there were a few other things I’ve done in the last few days that I would like to mention right now.

I got a chance to go see the new play by Adam Rapp, Red Light Winter, at the Barrow Street Theater on Friday. As you may already know, I was a huge theater geek when I was a teenager, so I was trilled to get a chance to see a new stage show that didn’t involve a vague story being drawn around some 80s pop songs.

The play is basically about two college friend who spend a night in Amsterdam and bring a mysterious young prostitute back to their hotel room. A year later their paths cross again in New York, and drama ensues. It had a sold-out run at Chicago’s esteemed Steppenwolf Theater.

One of the things I didn’t realize about this play was that there’s FULL NUDITY (both male and female) in it, so if you were planning on bringing the folks to the show, you might want to think twice about it.

The dialogue can be very wordy at times (and a little hard to believe someone would say in real life), but all in all I did find the play stuck with me, even now, a few days after I’d seen it. It touches upon the themes of disillusioned (or imagined) love, poisonous relationships, and emotional cruelty that people inflict upon each other.

The ending is a little predictable and the character of Christina was kinda “eh”, but Christopher Denham‘s performance as the shy and socially uncomfortable Matt is strong and will eerily remind you of someone you know or went to high school with, as it did with me and my guest.

If you’re interested in checking the play out for yourself, head here and use the code “RW2BLOG” to get a discount of $15 off each ticket up to 8 for performances up until May 13, 2006.

WATCH: “Red Light Winter” trailer

red light winter

Speaking of Adam Rapp, did you know his brother is none other than the Pale One himself, Mr. Anthony Rapp of RENT fame? Tonight marked the celebration of the 10-year anniversary of RENT being on Broadway!!

True to the RENT line/lottery tradition, there was a lottery held for $20 tickets in the first few rows and American Idol alums Frenchie and Constantine picked out the names one by one and shouted them out using bullhorns and they ended up giving away more than the advertised 34 tickets to the benefit show.

The original Broadway cast (including Rapp, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Idina Menzel, and Taye Diggs) re-created their roles in tonight’s show. The afterparty was held at Cipriani’s on 42nd Street with celebs like uh…Joey Fatone and Luke Perry coming out to show their support.

The also have a RENT podcast you can download or subscribe to on iTunes.

As you may remember, I flipped out when I got a chance to go to the RENT movie premiere last year. Yup, I’m officially having the gayest week ever.

I also want to mention that I went to see everyone’s favorite sleepy Britrockers, Elbow, at Webster Hall last Thursday. There was one completely AMAZING new song they played (Rachel thought it was called “McGregor”?) that seriously had me crapping my pants. Anyone have a live recording of that song? I found it so powerful and moving with its ominous drum beats and soaring Guy Garvey vocals. Beauuuutiful.

elbow at webster hall

Lost Songs from the NYTW Version of “RENT”

April 23, 2006 will mark the 10th year anniversary of “RENT” on Broadway–which makes me feel really old. In honor of that I dug out some really old tape bootlegs of the original New York Theater Workshop version of “RENT”, hooked them up to my new analog output adapter and made some crappy mp3 versions of some of the “lost” songs from the show. My original tape wasn’t of the highest quality, so neither are these mp3s, but if you are a fan of the show and you haven’t heard these before I’m sure you will get a kick out of ’em.

The song “Right Brain” has the same melody as “One Song Glory” but the lyrics aren’t nearly as developed. I think you’ll see why Jonathan Larson decided to do a re-write on them. Tony Hoylen plays Roger.

The other song I have is called “Over It.” It’s a duet between Mark and Maureen discussing their relationship but it seems as though it was cut out of the show in favor of “Tango Maureen” between Mark and Joanne. It’s a pretty funny song. You can hear original Broadway cast member Anthony Rapp as Mark and Sarah Knowlton as Maureen.

DOWNLOAD: “Right Brain” from the NYTW version of RENT

DOWNLOAD: “Over It” from the NYTW version of RENT

NOTE: These mp3s are strictly for promotional purposes. If you need me to take them off for some kind of legal reason, please contact me.

Catch more lame “RENT” stuff I wrote about here and here.

Why ISN’T There a Subway Near Tompkins Square Park?: This and Other Questions that “RENT” Makes You Think Of

As you guys know, I love RENT despite it’s immensely hokey nature, bad acting (thanks Adam), and ridiculous premise. But check out this article by Jesse McKinley in the New York Times which touches upon some interesting ideas: Does RENT make you angry when you see the outside of Horseshoe Bar on 7th and B masquerading for the “Life Cafe”…which is a real place that is across the park on B and 10th? Why ISN’T there a subway station on the corner of Tompkins Square Park? Do RENTheads make the pilgrimage to the Life Cafe? Would real eVillage barflys see the glossy version of their neighborhood on the big screen? Etc.

Oh, and here’s a very grainy camera phone picture that I took when S.G. and I were walking past Horseshoe Bar while they were filming the exterior RENT shot on March 10, 2005.

When RENTheads Unite: Midnight Show at the Ziegfeld

Tonight I went to the 12 midnight showing of RENT. Yes, that makes this the 2nd time I’ve seen this movie in one week. The first time was at the world premiere.

But this time was just as fun. It was great to see it with such a responsive crowd. The most fun thing was seeing all the young teenage kids dressed up as the movie characters and/or decked out in RENT paraphernalia and homemade tshirts. And you can imagine the pandemonium that erupted when original cast member Anthony Rapp and newbie Tracie Thoms ran into the theater right before the film started.

Oh and totally unrelated, I saw Mercedes from “America’s Next Top Model” Cycle 2 at dinner.

Hooray geekdom! I’m so retarded tired.

UPDATE: The NY Times gave the movie a positive review. In addition to “RENT,” I’ve seen Walk the Line and “Jesus Is Magic” in the theater. Walk the Line, performances are better than the movie itself, which can be hokey, over-the-top and hard to believe through many portions of the movie, if not the whole thing. “Jesus Is Magic”…apparently I’m not really into Sarah Silverman’s comedy because I didn’t think it was as funny as I had anticipated.

Girl in catsuit

Her RENT tattoo

Homemade shirts

More homemade tees

Mimi, Mark, Roger

RENT tee

Anthony and Tracie

Just Take Me…Out Tonight!

As you may already know, I LOVE RENT! Like, a lot. Through the kindness of a really sweet person, I was fortunate enough to attend the world premiere of the movie at the Ziegfeld Theater tonight and the after party at Roseland.

I was a little nervous about seeing the movie because I’m such a HUGE fan of the stage musical, but I have to say I was not disappointed. I loved it. There were some great moments that Rentheads will really get a kick out of. I was so happy during the whole film. I’m not sure if it’s for everyone, but I adored it and I’m seeing it again next week at the midnight showing on the 22nd. Ok, are you now embarrassed for me? Sorry! I just have to geek out on this.

With arms wide open...

My favorite moment was during “What You Own” when they show Roger in Santa Fe. It’s amazing because it looks like they switched the real footage with outtakes from a Creed “With Arms Wide Open” and/or Britney Spears “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman” video (above). Yessssss!

At the premiere I saw Sarah Silverman (who has a small but hilarious role in the film), Little Steven, Joey “‘Nsync” Fatone (Who has been “Mark Cohen” in the Bway production), the dude who played “Will” on Alias, and of course the movie cast, Adam Pascal, Taye Diggs, Idina Menzel, Wilson J. Heredia, Jesse L. Martin, Rosario Dawson, Tracie Thoms, etc. But I was most shocked when I saw noneother than the original stage “Joanne,” Fredi Walker!!!!!! That was the best.

During the actual screening of the movie, the cast, director, and family of Jonathan Larson were announced and made to show themselves. When the “new kids” Rosario and Tracie were called, they both stood up and whooped at each other and pointed back and forth, as if to say “no YOU are the best!” “no no, YOU are the best!” It was cute when Wilson and Taye were standing up and they kept pointing at one another as well.

The afterparty was a fancy event. There was a full catered dinner buffet and open bar. Roseland was decorated with “trash” and flyers and other assorted “RENT-type” decorations like broken TVs, wires, flaming trash cans, etc. There was even a “street musician” positioned downstairs by the bathrooms and coat check. All around the place were projections of stills from the movie, and also of the RENT logo and sayings like “Leap of Faith.”

Rent

RENT premiere