Spring Awakening – Aronoff Center, Cincinnati, Ohio
WARNING: Contains some spoilers…
You know those moments you have when you suddenly realize you know more about life than you really thought you did? When you connect all the dots and put all the pieces together and know that 2 + 2 really does equal 4? That was my experience tonight at “Spring Awakening.”
I saw it on Friday as part of the series of season tickets of Broadway Across America. I was in the balcony (remind me to take Dramamine next time; I was dizzy for a day and a half) and really appreciated the artistic nature of the show. I loved the music and thought the staging was unique and complex in an understated and subtle way.
But tonight I went back and sat in the second row stage left – so close I could see the actors spitting out their words. And all the things I loved on Friday, I loved more. But even better, tonight I actually felt the show. I was moved by it.
Anyone who works with teenagers understands the gorgeousness of their discovery of life. Its part of what lures us into their domain and motivates us to help them navigate it. This play offers thought on how we – as adults – and how they – as adolescents – handle the blossoming of their emotions and sexuality. Its truly remarkable how authentic this is displayed throughout the musical.
Some would call it raunchy; that’s an ignorant view. It features mature themes, uses sexual content as comedy and drama, but I never found it obscene. It does encourage – no, it requires us to give thought to how society in general treats sex education and the consequences of our actions.
The story is set in 1920’s Germany. The construction of the play is brilliant. Just as adults today will say things like “Kids these days” and lump them all in one big category, this theatrical presentation is presented from a young viewpoint and thus generalizes all adults by having the same actor and actress play all the roles of the adults. And these two performers were magnificent in their subtle morphing in and out of the various roles they were called upon to portray. John Wojda and Angela Reed were stunning.
The leads, Melchior Gabor and Wlenda Bergman (played by Jake Epstein and Christy Altomare respectively), were captivating in their demonstration of the discovery of “feeling something.” Both were dynamite vocalists and passionate actors. I truly cared for them throughout the show.
For me, though, the actor who stole the stage every time he was on it was Taylor Trensch, who played the role of Mortiz Steifel, was enchanting. Like every teenage boy I’ve ever known who was naive, a little different, and gifted in ways his parents never see, this character was rich with truth. But the way Trensch played him was mesmerizing. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him whenever he was on the stage. Whether it was the awkward teenager humorously disturbed by his erotic dreams or the angry, suicidal, hopeless failure – he played it with an air of authenticity you just can’t learn. This actor is truly gifted. Add in a voice like an angel and you have a recipe, I believe, for superstardom. I hope he finds this to be true.
The rest of the cast was also very talented and with the exception of maybe two bad notes this evening (towards the end of the 2nd performance of the day) by the actor playing Hanschen (Andy Mientus), I could no flaw with the show. Chase Davidson played Hanschen on Friday night and while I think he might be a better singer, Mientus was a touch better at oozing the narcissism the role calls for. Both actors, though, were very good.
I can’t say enough good things about this show. But …
I would be remiss if I didn’t address the concerns my Christian readers may have regarding the overt sexual content, including nudity. I knew going in that this show contained mature themes and a sex scene. I also knew that there would be people mortified by the depiction of teenagers having sex on stage with a breast and buttock exposed. What I cannot get my mind around is that these people didn’t research this show enough to expect it and had the gall to complain about it! Now, I will be reposting my take on what the Bible says about sexuality in the next couple of days so there’s no mistake what my official position is.
But for a quick thought on the subject, let me say this: if we would stop treating sexuality as “dirty” and taboo, it would lose some – not all – of its power over us. And the musical says this in artistic, eloquent, and emotional fashion. It also demonstrates the danger of reckless immorality if you really pay attention to the content and the consequences. But mostly it is a cry for discussion by our parents to our kids about the truth about our bodies, our feelings, and our desires.
Its gone from Cincy after tonight and so if you missed it, you’ll have to catch it some other time. I hope you will and I hope you’ll be as moved by it as I was.