Spring Awakening: A Relflection

The smash musical “Spring Awakening” has left it’s home on Broadway and is making it’s rounds among the culture capitals of these United States. Including San Diego! We were lucky enough to get tickets for a mere $32, which placed us three rows from the very tippy-top of the theatre (nose-bleeds, if you will).

I saw the play last summer in New York right after it won the Tony’s and was being called the “greatest new musical” and all that. And I didn’t like it. I didn’t have a real reason. It just rubbed me the wrong way.

I decided to see it again because I like to see everything twice. I haven’t fallen in love with most of my favorite movies until at least least the second viewing. I don’t know why. That’s just how I work. And since this play was so highly regarded by…everyone…I thought that it must be me that was the problem. But I haven’t had the opportunity for a second viewing until now.

But I can confirm, that while I don’t hate the play, I’m definitely not a fan.

The whole idea is that this a ground-breaking rock musical. And while I quite enjoy a good rock musical, this was not one of them. The musical interludes did not add to the story…but merely interrupted it. There would be a perfectly nice little after-school-special type vignette going on, and then all of a sudden it turns into a rock concert. The characters would literally pull a microphone from under their costume, or another character would walk across stage, drop a microphone stand in front of them, and continue on their way. It was cute for awhile, but by the second act I realized what it was: a gimmick. And so much of the play relied on gimmick: having audience members seated on stage, the play starting before the lights went out, cast members sitting among the audience, etc. And really, it was to disguise what the play itself was lacking: a good story, relatable characters, and any sense of dialogue.

I’m sure the that details of the “plot” are well known: coming-of-age of German youth in the late 1800’s during a time of severe repression. Mainly it deals with the budding sexuality of all the teens, which leads to two deaths, a sentence to reformatory school, and the further ruination of other lives.

I think that the  main appeal is that it’s just edgy enough for the mainstream to feel badass for liking it; but still safe enough to wear the t-shirt to school. (See: songs with naughty titles like “Totally Fucked” or OMG a live boob on stage!!!!!!)

And the other thing was that is was just so joyless. There’s times when a situation is just bad (say for instance…dying from a botched abortion) but why does that have to be in a teen-centric musical? Can’t it be a little more sex positive? A little less “if you have sex you will die”?  (That was the theme of the story, wasn’t it?)

The positives: the music and the actors. The music was pretty close to excellent. And all the young actors are obviously very talented.

So overall, I would rate it somewhere between “okay” and “basically bad”. People get so sucked into the hype and are so excited about seeing something branded subversive that they just want to love it too seem cool.

But whatever. Maybe it is brilliant. Maybe I’m just jaded because while people are getting so excited about seeing a boob for two seconds, I can just pop in Showgirls and see a lot more (and be more entertained and have had a much better time).

~ Elaine.

PS Maybe Josh will tell us his opinon?


4 Responses to “Spring Awakening: A Relflection”

  1. 1 echomikeromeo September 1, 2008 at 5:59 am

    Yeah, Josh needs to write more. It’s not nice of him to make you do all the work!

    I hope it was at least an attractive boob. I will point out that physical live boobs are much more exciting than boobs on film. For example, I have seen many boobs on film, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in real life. Key distinction.

    Now I’m very curious to see what the big deal is!

  2. 2 jepartyservice September 2, 2008 at 2:37 am

    It was a decent looking boob. A little on the smallish side (she was on her back, though) but it was nice. (Not that we had the best view from the balcony, row R. That’s why I brought the binoculars). There was also some man-ass on display, too.

    And Josh is a bitch!!!

    And let us know what you think when you see it!

  3. 3 hartknight September 2, 2008 at 6:40 am

    Looking back on it, there did seem to be some heavy reliance on gimmickry. However, personally, I think I’d get a lot more out of life if I was allowed to carry a microphone in my coat at all times and sing about my angst. Well I guess no one is really stopping me, but I lack the musical talent to come up with catchy songs that fast. I’m not sure how groundbreaking it was, but as far as I’m concerned, the whole show served as just adding cool images to the music. Not to mention, the onstage band was pretty rockin, as were atheist german kid’s dance moves.

  4. 4 Daniel Soto September 4, 2008 at 5:53 am

    While I agree that the story isn’t amazing in that not a whole lot happens, I think that the production’s strength is in capturing what it feels like growing up in a repressive society where the adults have all the power and the kids aren’t given nearly enough credit, and in suggesting that we today as a society still have a long way to go in terms of being able to have an open dialogue about taboo issues like sex, etc.

    I think that all the “gimmicks,” such as having cast members sit among the audience, and singing into hand held mics served important purposes in the show’s theme. Here are these pubescent kids who have been given a limited perspective, trying to understand love and sex and the world at large. In dialogue their naivete is exaggerated, and they don’t know how to express their budding feelings, but during the musical numbers, they’re empowered and able to communicate all of their pent up frustration and longing. They feel like their problems are theirs alone, rather than universal experiences of maturation, and their virtual elevation to rock-star status in the musical numbers highlights this.

    Anyway, I could go on and on about how much I love Spring Awakening, and how every time I’ve seen it (3 times total) I’ve been able to relate to it in a different way, and to notice little details in the set and lighting and staging and acting that only enhance and change my understanding of it as a whole, but I’ll stop there. I hope I don’t sound super elitist–just wanted to share my two cents.

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