Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Spring Awakenings!

This is the continuation of the comparison and contrast review between Spring Awakening, the straight play in Philadelphia and the Broadway musical in New York City.


Book & Lyrics by Steven Sater, Music by Duncan Sheik, Based on the play by Frank Wedekind

Director: Michael Mayer, Music Director: Kimberly Grigsby, Choreography: Bill T. Jones

• Melchior - Hunter Parrish
• Wendla - Alexandra Socha
• Moritz - Gerard Canonico
• Ilse - Emma Hunton
• Martha - Amanda CastaƱos
• Thea - Caitlin Kinnunen
• Anna - Emily Kinney
• Hanschen - Matt Doyle
• Ernst - Blake Daniel
• Georg - Andrew Durand
• Otto - Gabe Violett
• Adult Woman - Christine Estrabrook
• Adult Man - Glenn Flesher
• Ensemble - Morgan Karr, Alice Lee, Eryn Murman, Zachary Reiner-Harris
• Swings - Jesse Swenson
• Understudies- Frances Mercanti Anthony, Tony Carlin

1. The set was a hardwood floor, with bleachers on the side where the chorus sat. The barn hayloft where Melchior and Wendla have sex is lifted above the rest of the stage with cords attached by the rest of the cast. These cords are brought out in a synchronized dance by actors during a song, “I Believe.” The whole below the “loft” also doubles as Moritz’s grave, which they drop flowers into in the next scene. Additionally, paintings and odd contraptions are nailed to back wall, as well as a suspended hardwood chair that Melchior ends up sitting in as punishment when he himself is suspended from school.

2. The style was more like rock & roll—for example, using microphones like pop singers and synchronized dances—to modernize the production. This managed to make a century-old play even more relevant (even though it already is—we’re still Victorians in prudishness, competitiveness, restrictive schooling, and oppressiveness toward children)

3. The adult characters were mostly crazy to be sure, but they didn’t wear masks or act like gluttonous pigs at any point. Maybe the creators/directors of the musical wanted the distinction between the adults and the children to be more subtle and below-the-surface, or maybe they wanted the children not to seem so young. In fact, scenes were cut showing the schoolboys playing games, the girls teasing each other…perhaps this was to downplay the childishness of the youthful characters.

4. An incest/rape song, “The Dark I Know Well,” is sad but empowering in its attitude of anger.

5. Melchior beat Wendla in both, but his horror was enough to make him learn how to control himself in this production.

6. Melchior and Wendla’s initial embrace was sweet: he listened to her heartbeat, shyly lifted her skirt and slowly unbuttoned her blouse and they sang “The Word of Your Body” before they made love. Also, the song “I Believe” was totally soothing as Melchior and Wendla were swayed on the lifted board by the other kids. Only four lines are repeated: “I believe/Oh I believe/There is love in heaven/All will be forgiven.” To say the least, this is completely the opposite from the tone in the straight play where Wendla gets raped.

7. The abortion scene is freaky; it is memorable but ONLY suggestive.

8. The scene where the school headmasters decided to expel Melchior precedes the song, "Totally Fucked," which is really lively and funny. Throughout the disciplinary meeting, Melchior was standing in front and the school headmasters in back; all of them faced the audience, but Melchior's head snapped to the left or the night, depending on who addressed him, just as if he had been looking at them instead of out at the audience. This was a really suspenseful scene, and this technique effectively worked up the audience for the climactic, chaotic song that immediately followed. “Totally Fucked” uses harsh language, but it's still a lot of fun and hilariously choreographed, with every single member of the cast running, kicking, screaming, twirling, jumping and so on. There’s nothing like it in the straight play, although the purpose of this song might be to make up for the scenes cut from the play illustrating juvenile behavior.

9. The dinner scene between the Gabors was almost nonexistent in the musical: that production showed a few exchanged lines of dialogue between the parents that was tenderer, and displayed his mother giving up fairly immediately without at all condemning the school’s headmasters or their community, etc.

10. Melchior escapes from the reformatory to come back to his lover Wendla and their child. Also, Wendla’s song wrapping up her story, “Whispering,” was hopeful: for example, she says “I let him love me,” even though in play he raped her.

11. Melchior wept when he discovered Wendla’s gravestone. It was her death that prompted him to almost commit suicide, as Moritz’s ghost looked on behind him.

12. The morbid graveyard scene was sad and touching in elegance, beauty, and the clarity of Wendla and Moritz.

13. The ending is obviously hopeful—Moritz begs Melchior to stay alive and be strong, whereas in play Moritz wants Melchior to join him and Wendla does not say a word/sing to him.

14. The girl who played Wendla in the musical, Alexandra Socha, is similar to the actress in EgoPo's production because they both have curiosity and a gentleness to them. However, Socha acts and looks more like a little kid than a young adult.

15. In the musical, the actor who plays Melchior (Hunter Parrish) is tall, svelte, blonde, and graceful like a dancer.

• The musical had an overall romanticized, not so much realistic, depiction of adolescence, ignorance, rape, suicide, murder by dirty abortion and other tragedies.

• The musical entirely cut the mysterious masked man and instead lent his words to Moritz and Wendla’s song “Those You’ve Known”

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