Spring in Autumn
Photo from nytimes.com
I went to see the musical Spring Awakening last night. My only knowledge of the show had consisted of some snippets on television commercials and a musical number played at the bar Splash on a Musical Monday. I had the impression that it either took place a while ago or among modern day Mennonites and that it involved a coming of age story. The show surprised me with rousing musical numbers, a touching story, and interesting characters played by very talented, very young actors.
The story centers around two young people discovering love in a strict and conservative society. The main characters stand out with their unique ability to see another kind of life. Some of the show’s vibrant numbers include “The Bitch of Living” and “Totally Fucked”. This modern voice gave a sense that youthful optimism and angst have always existed. From school girl crushes to wet dreams and masturbation, this production freshly portrays young people discovering their sexuality and illustrates some of the negative consequences of abstinence-only education. The plot follows the romances and tragedies of these young characters.
The performance opened with the character Wendla, played by Alexandra Socha, beautifully singing the song “Mama Who Bore Me” in her undergarments. After finishing the song with a bevy of powerfully-voiced young ladies, Wendla questions her mother about how babies are made. She receives only the vaguest of answers about loving one’s husband. The show goes on to introduce a slew of private school boys, including the gifted Melchior, played by Hunter Parrish. The boys sing several lively songs that made me think of Green Day (particularly those sung by the troubled Moritz, played by Gerard Canonico,). All the adult parts were played by a single man and woman who never sang – which reminded me in a way of the Peanuts’ portrayal of grownups.
As the romance between Wendla and Melchior blossomed, I found myself engrossed in the story. With their chemistry, this young couple actually made me feel their loss when they were separated. The story contained both raunchy humor and heavy tragedy. While I had expected a slightly hokey and light-hearted play, this production ended up being a beautiful story about youthful sex, love, and the dangers of a closed-minded society.