I'm working at Spring Awakening again this week and I couldn't be more thrilled. Even though I know the show is good, it's been a while since I've seen it. From the first song, I was reminded what a truly great show this is and why it absolutely deserved to win the Tony for best new musical.
The backdrop of the show is a small German town before the turn of the 20th century but the music for the show is written for today. And even though the musical takes place over 100 years ago the theme is remarkably contemporary. Before you say that it's natural that the show would be contemporary because it was mostly put together in the 21st century, take note that the book is based on a play written German playwright Frank Wedekind in 1891.
From what I've learned Wedekind wrote this play after a series of teen suicides in Germany in the late 19th century. He explores the effects of a sexually repressed society on teenagers who are becoming aware of their sexuality.
For me, what makes the show contemporary is the fact that in the play, most of the adults that the teenagers rely upon for support, comfort and nurturing basically fail them, leaving them to deal with the consequences of behavior that they don't understand? What do I mean? Well. The musical opens with 14 year-old Vendla asking her mother where babies come from. Because her mother is so embarrassed she lies to Vendla and gives her a blatantly inaccurate accounting of sex and reproduction.
Naturally, Vendla gets pregnant and has no idea at all why. Then her mother blames her for not knowing better. Another character in the play commits suicide and after his father shames him for failing, claiming that his parents will no longer be able to face their friends in church because their son had gotten kicked out of school for failing. There's a lot of that in this show; children raped by a parent; children being purposely failed in school for being less than popular; children who are thrown out of their homes to live with Bohemians.
And through it all, the wonderful music expresses the children's rage and frustration through lyrics that sound like teen poetry and music that sounds as classical as it is rock.
By the end of the show, you're left thinking about how kids are left to fend for themselves today. How many stories do we hear about teenage pregnancy, suicide and incest?
This a great show. And hopefully it will run long enough that you'll get to see it.