Broadway stars shine in rock-musical "Spring Awakening

By Tatiana Craine

After seeing the new touring production of Broadway’s 2007 smash hit “Spring Awakening,” it’s hard to imagine nineteenth century Germany without sex and rock and roll.Though “Spring Awakening” was originally penned by Frank Wedekind in 1891, the musical version is surprisingly relevant to modern times. Wedekind explores the turbulent feelings of teenage sexuality through the lives of a handful of ordinary adolescents. It is quickly apparent that all the same pressures of adolescent (and college) life are still alive today. Elders are overbearing. Sexuality is a domain ripe for exploration. Schoolwork is a dark cloud over students’ heads.

“Spring Awakening” follows childhood friends Wendla, Melchior and Moritz through their strict days of schooling. Wendla is innocently na’ve about her budding sexuality, curious as ever about the feelings welling up inside of her. Melchior, the brooding rebel of the bunch, tries to fight the system and triumph over the adults in his life. Moritz only wants to pass his classes, though he is plagued by thoughts of scantily clad women. Kyle Riabko’s Melchior teems with philosophical and anarchistic energy, dark yet engaging. Wendla, played by Christy Altomare, makes a very believable transformation from na’ve schoolgirl to star-crossed lover.

The supporting cast all have their own stories, each distinct from the other, lending to a well-rounded cast of characters.

Rock and roll permeates the score of “Spring Awakening,” urgently and forcefully illustrating the teenagers’ angst with their places in life. The songs in “Spring Awakening” range from soulful ballads (“Mama Who Bore Me”) to furious tunes (“The Bitch of Living”). One of the shows highlights, “Totally Fucked,” takes advantage of the entire cast as they all let their rage loose and rock out.

Funny and heartbreaking, “Spring Awakening” is a perfect blend of humor and drama. Broadway is certainly broadening its horizons, for where else can audiences see characters masturbating to Shakespeare in one scene and experimental, adolescent sadomasochism in the next? In one scene, Moritz muses about women’s legs, saying, “Some dark part of my destiny may lie there between them.” Though the comment seems comic, it foreshadows events beyond the adolescents’ imaginings. Dark and off-color subject matter is rampant throughout “Spring Awakening,” though it remains entirely believable without seeming forced.

In the end, “Spring Awakening,” sways a little from Wedekind’s original text, but the themes still remain strong as ever. The musical brings new life to the issues that adolescents have braved for centuries. Some things haven’t changed, but “Spring Awakening” gives audiences hope that things might get better for teenagers.