Musical Review: Spring Awakening

Details: Won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2007. Official site is https://www.springawakeningthemusical.com/ The playbill for the original Broadway cast can be found at http://www.playbill.com/production/spring-awakening-eugene-oneill-theatre-vault-0000004687

I saw this show years ago and, admittedly, I don’t remember every detail. I watched some clips and read some stuff to help refresh my recollection, but I can’t say that I remember everything. Which says something about how I feel about this musical since I remember a lot about Avenue Q even though it came out before Spring Awakening. While I remember enjoying Spring Awakening and definitely think it deserved the Tony for best musical that year (especially when considering the other nominees), there are some things I didn’t love

Spring Awakening is based on a German play that centers on a group of young teenagers in Nineteenth Century Germany. We follow these teenagers as they come of age and learn about their sexuality.

The things I remember most about this show are the adult subject matter. They go over sex, abuse, abortion, and homosexuality. There is also on stage nudity by the two leads, which I was not aware of before watching this. I’ve heard of censored versions of this show performed where they don’t show private parts, but the version I saw had the nudity.

The music is the strongest part of this show. It’s mostly alternative rock. There aren’t really that many classic musical songs where someone gets a chance to belt out a note and show of their singing ability. The alternative rock style doesn’t really allow that. There are also a lot of ballads, which also don’t allow big, belting solos. Even still, it’s a great bunch of songs that cover very serious, adult subject matter.

The play itself is mostly very serious. This is a drama, not a comedy despite some humor strewn through the show. There are some very heavy moments and those moments help emphasize the music. The dialogue is deliberately stilted and sounds old-fashioned, which is right since this takes place in a more conservative time. The contemporary rock music helps contrast that tone, adding levity and energy to what would be an almost suffocatingly dark show otherwise.

Which leads to my two biggest problems with the show. The first flaw is that it’s really dark… which isn’t too bad I guess. I just prefer musicals that are more fun, and this definitely leans on the darker side. But I understand that was a deliberate choice.

The other issue I have with the show was the acting. I just… didn’t find it all that convincing. I don’t know if that had anything to do with the young age of the performers and the very adult subject matter they area trying to convey. Maybe it had something to do with the deliberately outdated dialogue they used. Either way, their performances just didn’t do it for me. At times it was too muted, at time it was over the top.

Overall, Spring Awakening is still a great musical with a memorable list of songs that cover some very adult themes. This is not the kind of musical which relies too much on the acting or singing talents of its leads. I can easily see another cast performing the show as well if not better than the original Broadway cast. If you’re prepared for some very adult subject matter, I recommend watching the show if it’s available for you.

Score: 7/10

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