Horny teenagers are going to have sex whether it is explained to them or not. It’s in our nature, and desire can be repressed for only so long.
Following a group of kids growing up in a pious community in late-19th-century Germany, Spring Awakening explores the lust and confusion of the adolescents discovering their sexuality while being kept in the dark by their parents, teachers and clergy. Moritz (Robert Head) believes the erotic dreams that plague him are a sure sign of insanity. Wendla (Beth Scheppke) begs her mother to simply tell her how babies are conceived but, too late, finds out on her own. Melchior (Noah Fish), having learned about sex through books, tries to inform his friends and is convinced that the suppression of desire is a conspiracy among the adults to keep the teens unhappy and complacent.
Adapted from an 1892 German play—which was banned for its frank depiction of sex, homosexuality, abortion and abuse—Spring Awakening opened as a rock musical in 2006, eventually winning eight Tony Awards including Best Musical. Juxtaposing the antiquated attitudes with upbeat, pop-rock melodies, the music brings the students’ inner turmoil to the forefront with songs like “The Bitch of Living,” “Totally Fucked” and the surprisingly heartfelt “My Junk,” all performed with a fresh sincerity.
Presented on the sparsest of sets, the frenetic choreography brings the show to life, depicting a palpable tension as the cast stomps, slams down chairs and practically twitches and vibrates through the performance. It’s manic frustration experienced as only repressed youth can, and the cast pulls it off exceptionally well, feeding off and elevating the energy of one another. Also commendable are the two adult roles, skillfully played by Jennifer Goldsmith and Blaine Palmer, as they rapidly transition between callous instructors, objects of desire, and parents both caring and abusive.
Although the plot
begins to snowball in the second act, with dramatic events piling on top
of each other, the emotional theme pulls through in the spirited
performance of the cast. Desire may be the bitch of living, but it’s got
a good beat.
SEE IT: Spring Awakening is at the World Trade Center, 121 SW Salmon St., 208-1742, liveonstage.us. 7:30 pm Thursdays-Saturdays through May 26. $20-$30.