Provocative 'Spring Awakening' returns to Minneapolis

By Tatiana Craine

So school sucks and home is just as bad. You’re depressed, in love and maybe you’re about to have a kid. And, oh yeah, you’re in 1890s Germany. What’s an angst-ridden teenager to do?Welcome to the world of “Spring Awakening,” the Tony Award-winner for Best Musical in 2007. With a fresh, contemporary take on Frank Wedekind’s 1891 play of the same name, the musical sheds light on some difficult teen issues by thrusting a taste of history into the present. The unconventional production mixes the turn-of-the-century German mindset, historically inspired costumes and electrifying rock and roll-like songs.

“Spring Awakening” follows the ups and downs in the lives of nearly a dozen teenagers grappling with parents, school, social pressure, love and sex. The charming, handsome and book-smart Melchior, his best friend Moritz and a host of other boys try to navigate their way through the hellish halls of school while trying to get laid. Meanwhile, Wendla and her close girl friends dream of better lives, boys and pleasing their harsh and abusive parents. Sprinkle a few hot piano teachers, some sick chair-dancing and an emotional night in a hayloft-and you’ve got yourself the basics of “Spring Awakening.”

It might be hard to remember just how bad your teen years were (let’s face it, everyone had that awkward stage). but this production brings all the angst, tears and indignation back with a vengeance. The adult characters in the production are usually comically awful to the teens, but sometimes their disciplinarian authority branches over into actual abuse. It’s not difficult to see why these kids feel like they have no way out, and suddenly you realize that they’re not that different than you were a few years ago battling mom and dad for a later curfew.

The groundbreaking musical won eight Tony Awards during its first year on Broadway, garnering universal critical and audience response. With book and lyrics by Steven Sater and a score by Duncan Sheik, the production brings pehnomenal energy and marked urgency to the character’s hopes, desires, dreams and nightmares. Entertainment Weekly even hails the music in “Spring Awakening” as “the most gorgeous Broadway score this decade.”

“Spring Awakening” arrives in Minneapolis for a special limited engagement for two performances only on Nov. 6 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 7 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $15-60. For more information, visit www.hennepintheatretrust.org