Once again, I found myself in the stressful position of scrambling much of the day to find someone to use the extra ticket. It seemed like no one was answering their phones, or that everyone I could get a hold of was already busy. I was finally able to persuade Natasha, my friend from work, to tweak her schedule and come along. I found myself in a similar situation back in April, when I had an extra ticket to go see Andrew Bird perform at the Civic Opera House, and it ended up going to waste. It never ceases to amaze me how hard it is to get people to do something spontaneously, even if you offer them free entertainment. I suppose that binding obligations are one of the unfortunate consequences of adulthood.
Natasha and I in front of the Oriental Theater.
So, in a sense, it was oddly appropriate that I cap off a day filled with so much hand-wringing with a musical that explores the deepest depths of teen angst. Spring Awakening tells the story of a group of German teens at the end of the 19th century. The oppressive religious and intellectual climate of that era has left the youths with few tools to understand the changes occurring in both their bodies and their minds.
Moritz is a young man who is tormented by his nascent sexual urges, and is driven to such distraction that he is failing in school. His friend Melchoir is world-wise, but his knowledge of sex and contemporary philosophy isolates him from the traditionally-minded townspeople. Wendla, the principle female character, yearns to understand the adult world, yet clings to the simplicity of childhood innocence. The cast is rounded out with such conflicted characters as Martha, a girl who is the victim of incest, Hanschen and Ernst, two homosexual teens coming to terms with their feelings for one another, and Ilse, a girl who was turned out of her parents home and must resort to a life of vagrancy. By the end of the production, most of the main characters have met a terrible and tragic end.
Somehow, despite the characters' collective misery, the story manages to end on a hopeful note. I think this is largely accomplished through the upbeat energy of the score, composed by 90's one-hit wonder, Duncan Sheik (whose song, "Barely Breathing" was one of the anthems of my own adolescent angst). Spring Awakening is often lauded as having single-handedly reinvented the musical theater genre, and while I feel that it owes a great deal of debt to other contemporary pop/rock musicals like Rent, it does what it does very well. I came home after the show and downloaded the soundtrack right away. The songs were disarmingly catchy, and very effective.
What didn't exactly work about this particular production were the vocals of the two principles, Jake Epstein (Melchoir) and Christy Altomare (Wendla). Altomare's voice was a bit thin for the role, as was that of Epstein, who is a D-list celebrity of Disney Channel extraction, clearly out trying to dispel the wholesome image of his years on Degrassi: The Next Generation by baring his (admittedly very nice) bare-bottom in a simulated sex act every night, nationwide. That being said, I should not have so lightly dismissed the parental warning from the theater's website; despite the teenage subject matter, Spring Awakening is most decidedly not appropriate for kids under at least fifteen or so. Still, seeing as how I don't think there is anyone among my readership who falls into that demographic, I highly recommend Spring Awakening if you have a chance to see it. Just make sure you go into the theater with an open mind.