REVIEW – On a Broadway of shows too timid to deviate from safe applause, Spring Awakening has defied every convention of the blockbuster formula. More importantly, it has drawn the line for the next evolutionary step in the American musical.
Spring Awakening follows a group of teenagers in 1890s Germany experiencing sexual awakening, which their parents keep them completely in the dark about. But more tragically, they are grossly mistreated and underappreciated by the adults in their lives.
The way the show depicts teenagers is revolutionary. The stereotypes and superficiality have been left out, leaving raw characters who bare a shocking amount of heart and soul.These are individuals who actually convince you that they are a force to be reckoned with.
And they do it all through their handheld microphones.
Director Michael Mayer has championed his young actors to become bona fide rock stars. When actors like John Gallagher Jr. and Jonathan Groff coolly remove the mics concealed within their schoolboy jackets, they transform into powerful leaders with importance dripping from every word.
Spring Awakening appropriately takes its songs a bit deeper than just breaking out into musical rapture in public. All the songs exist within the characters’ own minds, adding heightened intellect to the onstage happenings. At times, the teenagers seem like a Greek chorus.
This is what makes the teenage characters of Spring Awakening so groundbreaking. Rather than being painted as trivial, unknowing youngsters, they display an unprecedented amount of wisdom and intellect.
Gallagher, who plays Moritz, with hair as electrified as his personality, flunks out of school. Or, rather, is cheated out by two conniving teachers. He nervously confronts his father with the news, yet is as sweet and considerate a young man as anyone could imagine. Without hearing him out, his father hits him repeatedly across the face. The moment is gut-wrenching and, without dialogue, Gallagher displays immense heartbreak.
Spring Awakening is a call to the adult world that the youth should not be discredited or underestimated.
The set may lack Mary Poppins’ multi-storied house, but it has enough flashing fluorescent lights to outshine the competition. The 11 young actors execute the intricate choreography with invigorating accuracy. And there may be no special effects, but the incredible acting and vocals of the performers will evoke enough laugher and break enough hearts for you to forget all about pyrotechnics.
Jesse North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.