Bayside High School, Grade 12
Spring Awakening is by far one of the greatest musicals ever to hit Broadway. It's a racy tale about sexually repressed 19th century German teens. Although the time period would imply that the story is dated, that is absolutely not the case. The story is old and yet still fresh, completely familiar to young bodies and minds today. With an amazing score by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater, nothing in this musical disappoints. From the actors and incredibly well-developed characters to the single yet intricately designed set to the raw and heart-wrenching storyline, the entire show is nothing short of awesome.
It begins with an emotional song dealing with unanswered questions about the facts of life, "Mamma Who Bore Me," sung by the character of Wendla. She wishes to know where babies come from, and her mother expects her to be content with the answer that a woman must "love her husband with all her heart" in order to conceive. Although the audience and I laughed during this seemingly comical opening scene, we would discover soon enough that this misleading answer would be the unwinding of poor and curious Wendla. Wendla's best friends are just as inquisitive as her and discuss the idea of marriage and physical intimacy with the song "Touch Me," sung by the entire cast as the musical progresses.
We first meet the boys that complete the stellar cast of Spring Awakening in a school setting. They are reading Vergil's Aeneid when the absent-minded Moritz falls victim to the headmaster's request to recite the first few lines of Aeneas' journey verbatim and fails to do so correctly. He gets reprimanded for this, but his free-spirited schoolmate Melchior comes to his rescue. This scene leads to Melchior discovering the reasons for Moritz's inconsistency in school: namely, his inability to sleep at night due to erotic dreams. Moritz thinks he is suffering an unusual malady, but wise Melchior assures him that such dreams creep up on all of the boys they know; it's "The Bitch of Living," after all. This song is incredibly well-written and performed, and the choreography and energy of the actors combined makes it even better.
The musical delves into the knowledge-thirsty psyches of these innocent youth as they are imprisoned in their very own homes and families, and prevented by their education system from knowing and understanding the basics about their physical natures. Moritz fails his final examination, meanwhile engrossed in the anatomy of his dreams with the help of an essay with illustrations on the matter written by his friend Melchior.
His father is notified of his failure, however, and causes him to run away. Melchior and Wendla find their first love in each other and explore it in a nearby hayloft. These two incidents result in dire consequences. Moritz, in a fit of despair, shoots himself with a pistol, and Melchior is deemed responsible because his text is found in Moritz's possession. While Melchior is in an institution because of his so-called crime, Wendla is diagnosed with "anemia" when in fact she's pregnant. She has no idea how this is possible until her mother demands to find out who the father is, and Wendla blames her for not explaining the facts of conception clearly. After such a drastic and dramatic climax, the musical ends rather soothingly.
There are several more stories and songs within Spring Awakening that spur rebellious and awe-inspiring trains of thought. The script is so clever and thoughtful, alluding to great authors and mythic figures like Goethe, Achilles and Patroclus. The political and social commentary is entertaining and sharp. It's a truly raw and sensual story that awakens the senses and allows the audience to honestly relate on a personal level. It's a musical that remains ingrained in the minds of audiences--and one certainly worth watching more times than one.
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