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‘Spring Awakening’ rocks the stage
Posted Dec. 5, 2008

Every once in a while, a musical comes around that I become obsessed with. In musicals, life is simpler, and you know you can always have a happy ending. My preferred shows lately have been “Legally Blonde” and “Wicked.” They’re simple, fun, and everything turns out all right in the end. But now I have a new favorite. “Spring Awakening” has become my go-to theater production. The show was based on a play written in 1891 by Frank Wedekind, but the show is far from traditional.

The rock musical, which won the Tony for Best Musical in 2007, has more sex, death and swearing than even today’s extremely provocative audiences are used to. The show just finished its run at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, but I can’t wait to see it again.

This musical is far from your grandparent’s musical—no show could be further from “Oklahoma” or “The Sound of Music.” In this play, there are instances of abortion, rape and suicide—not familiar components of musicals, but this show has all of the necessary elements to be an amazing tour de force of teenage angst.

The show follows a group of adolescents on the cusp of adulthood in late 1800s Germany. Little can be said about the plotline of “Spring Awakening” without giving away the story, but the entire performance goes smoothly, creating tidy transitions between songs and stretches of dialogue.

I first became aware of the show after hearing fans rave about the New York production. After praising the show for its inventiveness and shock value, the show was crowned the new “Rent.”

After buying the soundtrack, I became a Guilty One. This title is what diehard fans of the show call fellow passionate enthusiasts of “Spring Awakening,” stemming from a song by the same title in the show.
The music, written by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater, ranges from alt-rock to sweet ballads, and the audience is swept along with the character’s dramas and tragedies. When it is time for the actors to sing, they slyly pull microphones out of their costumes, and belt like there’s no tomorrow (spoiler alert—there isn’t going to be a tomorrow for some unfortunate characters). This aspect of the show lends to the feeling of a guerilla performance; the actors seem like they are singing because they need to express themselves, not because of some cheesy need to explain obvious events to the audience. The best songs include updated versions of the 19th century troubles of youth. “My Junk” describes the teenager’s desire and obsession with fellow classmates of the opposite sex, and “Totally F---ked” perfectly illustrates the feeling of hopelessness a lot of young people feel when faced with the trials of growing up. The curse words are not used sparingly, but they do feel indispensible to the show’s edge. Softer songs like “Don’t Do Sadness” and “Blue Wind” are appropriate opposites of the more hard-hitting group numbers.

I’ve listened to the CD of the show so many times that I can pretty much recite all of the lyrics. If you ever see me driving, seemingly rocking out and singing at the top of my lungs, chances are I’m listening to “Spring Awakening.” I was excited to see the show toward the end of November, and I was not disappointed even though I had really high expectations for the production. There was electricity onstage, and the show demonstrated why it has such a following—the show made audience members laugh and cry, and not many current theatre productions have the power do that. I can’t wait for a new, exciting musical to come out, but for now I have a great show to tide me over.

Erin Konrad, a senior journalism major, is editor in chief of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at erin.konrad@laverne.edu.