Spring Awakening

Having seen the 2007 smash hit “Spring Awakening” on Broadway last summer, I jumped on the opportunity to see it again when tickets were offered to Andover students to watch the touring company give a performance in Boston. “Spring Awakening,” which won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2007, closed surprisingly soon after, on January 18, 2009. Thanks to the Lexus Broadway Across America Series, however, fans across the country who were unable to see the musical on Broadway are now getting a chance to see the sensation of “Spring Awakening” in major U.S. cities. Indeed, the touring company tries to replicate the Broadway production as much as possible, so as to give theatergoers the feeling like they’re sitting in a New York City theater. However, as much as the touring company attempts to replicate the original Broadway cast, it will never amount to its predecessor’s truly unique and groundbreaking achievement. For those who are unfamiliar with “Spring Awakening,” all you need to know is that naïve German boys and girls in the 1890s wonder about where babies come from and what those “sticky dreams” mean—that is, until the rebellious radical Melchior Gabor unveils the truth to the curious youths, inducing a much-awaited awakening. Another fun fact: Duncan Sheik ’88 is the musical’s Tony-Award winning composer. The musical has been criticized for being too provocative, which is understandable since throughout the show the audience sees a suicide, a gay make-out session and a partially nude sex scene. For provocative content, “Spring Awakening” gets an A-plus, though I personally didn’t feel that the controversial content was at all gratuitous. The cast, however, lacked most in vocal quality. In particular, Blake Bashoff, who plays Moritz, the suicidal and academically challenged student—sang with a noticeably nasal tone reminiscent of a boy band. The actor failed to realize that although this vocal technique might speak to him as a means of expressing angst, “Spring Awakening” is first and foremost a musical, where patrons do not pay to hear a whiny actor belt in a fashion that can be found in any techno club around the world. Additionally, Bashoff’s interpretation of the role was hardly an interpretation at all, since nearly every acting moment mimicked John Gallager, Jr.’s Tony-award portrayal in the original cast. I suppose that Spring Awakening fans look for similarity in the touring cast and the original cast, but an exact replica is certainly unnecessary. Surely an actor could take some liberties in his interpretation of a role and branch out from the formula lied out by the actor who played the role first. The casting for this production appears remarkably young. While the characters are allegedly 14 or 15, directors typically end up casting college actors. However, some of the ensemble’s girls looked under 13. There is something creepy for me, at least, in casting adolescents in so mature a show. Ultimately, though, the naivety of the characters is all the more believable and powerful with actors so young. The theatre critics can sit in their armchairs debating the legitimacy of each directorial choice in “Spring Awakening” and its organic merit, but in the end, these are minute flaws—if flaws at all—that are ultimately inconsequential in the grand perspective of the show. As long as more young people are becoming enthralled by the magic of musical theatre and Broadway, “Spring Awakening” has done more than enough to deserve our applause.