“Spring Awakening”

I went to NYC to have wifey’s ‘rents meet my Mom for the first time. (It’s been over a decade that we’ve been together, so it was about time). One of the scheduled activities was going to see Spring Awakening at Eugene O’Neill Theatre, 230 West 49th St. It was supposed to be the “best thing happening in musical theater in New York right now.”

Maybe I’m spoiled by seeing some of the great rock-operas like Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar and Hedwig, but I was completely bummed out about this show. I had just left an amazing exhibition at the Neue Galerie with Van Gogh, Klimpt, Sheile and Hande, and I was totally inspired. My pump was primed for something amazing.

The show starts up with “Mama Who Bore Me.” (Mama, You Bore Me?) This song is great, Lea Michele (Wendla) totally kicks ass, and the audio production is great. She’s incredibly sexy in a baby-doll nightie and thigh-high socks. Her diction and the timbre of her voice really make this song shine. The repetition in the song makes the song very memorable, but not annoying. Unfortunately, at this point things start to hitch a ride on the poop train.

As the rest of the chorus joins in, the chaos really starts to get going. There’s a lot going on on stage and things are starting to get confused. The chaos reminded me of being a teenager of course, so it was fine. The more singers that are going at the same time, the harder it becomes to understand the words. Fortunately in this opener, we have already heard all the important lines in the beginning and the group is just reinforcing the hooks in the song.

For the rest of the show it was difficult to understand the actors. As an audio producer, I was listening for relative levels between the instruments and the voices, but I didn’t detect any real problems with mixing. The music was full and the sound engineer did a great job of eeking every last bit of dynamic range out of the system. I was impressed with the clarity of the quiet parts. I just couldn’t understand the lyrics. Maybe I could have used a copy of the libretto with a translation like you get at the Opera house.

One thing that I found really distracting was the use of hand-held mics and body mics at the same time. The sound quality with just the body mics was good. Were they using the hand held mics for effect? I couldn’t really figure out why they used them for some tunes and not for others. The hand-helds weren’t for any technical reason, I decided in the end that they were just a prop, just another theatrical device to rock it up.

Some of the real highlights of the show: John Gallagher, Jr. (Moritz) and Lauren Pritchard (Isle). Both of these singers were believable; they brought their own experiences and flavor to music. They can both stand on their own artistically.

Gallagher is the only artist who really comes across as understanding the frustration of adolescence-or even the thread of punk rock. Gallagher’s band, Old Springs Pike, is delicious harmonized roots rock, so who knows where he got it from. Maybe it was in his movements, or in the sneer, or in the disgruntled teenaged angst, but I believed him.

Lauren Pritchard also was a highlight of the show. She balances her broken character on a wire separating a stolen childhood from a harsh reality filled with violence and sexual abuse. Somehow she manages to align her singing voice with this type of pain and convey the emotion with timbre and not just her lines. I suspect there will be much much more good things to come from her in the future.

Now the stuff that sucked…

The single most collosal show-killer in the whole is the sex scene which first appears at the end of the first act and is REPEATED and the beginning of the second act. The single worst part of the worst scene is when after our hero Jonathan Groff (Melchior) has pulled his pants down and aligned himself between the thighs of a topless Lea Michele (Wendla) and then REACHES BETWEEN HIS LEGS TO HOLD HIS JOHNSON WHILE HE PENETRATES HER. This of course, happens TWICE, as I mentioned before. I found myself thinking, “Why would a director ask for something like that? Was is to be more realistic? Was it to show to that Melchior (I’m going to call him Milky from now on), had lost his innocence by reading medical books about sex? Was is to make Milky seem more to blame for deflowering Wendla?”

It really ruined what could have been something quite lovely. The other thing that was almost comical was her saying, “No, stop,” and him pushing forward until she gives in at 1st base, then second, then third, then… I wish they had had an usher make an announcement like for epileptics and strobe lights. She would in a flight attendant voice, “Now don’t try this at home kids. When girls say ‘No,’ they really mean ‘No.’ “

Everything in the show seemed obvious to me. There was the Pink Floyd number, the Green day number, the watered-down Radiohead tune- everything just seemed so intentional, or manipulative. The tune “Fuck It All,” is the feel good hit of the show, but also a disappointment. They use the work ‘fuck’ as the big shocker of the show. That word hasn’t shocked me since I was 7 years old. It did look like it was a shocker for many of the Broadway fans that were in attendance that night. Maybe Duncan Sheik actually introduced all of these people to punk rock, and they fell in love with it, just like I did in the 80’s.

I didn’t believe the ensemble. They were just too cool to be punk rock. Or maybe they were too nerdy. They just didn’t seem real. I didn’t care when Morty killed himself and I didn’t care when Wendla died at the abortionist. I didn’t share their pain. I didn’t grieve with Milky.

5 Responses to ““Spring Awakening””

  1. Laura R. Says:

    Wifey says:
    I have to agree about the “fuck” song. My favorite part was at the end when all the characters gave the audience a the big middle finger. Whoa! Shocking! I haven’t seen misbehavior like that since Little Annie escaped from the orphanage. While I enjoyed parts of the show, especially Lea’s singing, I just couldn’t get over the fact that theater people – at least most of today’s young theather people – just shouldn’t try to do punk or rock. They’re mouseketeers, not rockers. They’re Britney Spears, not Courtney Love. Their every movement was fake, overacted and totally choreographed by some very uncool kid gave who tried to tell them how to look cool. It reminded me of the people in high school who spent hours shopping for clothes and planning their outfits so they would look “grunge.”

  2. ted Says:

    Dude. Are you gonna keep this thing updated?

  3. HDG XIX Says:

    Dude, how often do I have to update it?

  4. ted Says:

    Dude, like a couple times a week! Like, ya know, dude.

    Speaking of, dude, have you checked out some of mom’s comments on my blog this week. Wackadoo!

  5. Laura R. Says:

    Ted (dude), you realize this stuff is on the web, right? Your mom could find it. Wackadoo!

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