A Wake Up Call, by Megan Clinard

2 Sep

So what can you learn from a musical based on a banned play about sex, anarchy, and going against everything your parents and teachers say? A lot. 1890s Germany, where religion ruled and cultural philosophy was never questioned, sets the stage for a group of young adolescence coming into their own. In the opening scene, Wendla’s mother tells her that her elder sister has had another visit from the stork. When questioned how this truly works, her mother tries to avoid embarrassment by explaining that babies come from women loving their husbands with their whole… um… heart. This fear of discussing the improper foreshadows the unforeseen pain that the confused teens will face in a foreboding world that doesn’t know how to handle what every child will inevitably face.

There are shocking moments that some might say is too much for teens to see. But what makes “Spring Awakening” groundbreaking for this new generation is speaking honestly about that awkward and often painful in between stage of child to adult. There are few people my age or younger that I have met who haven’t been burned by parental idealism or the Christian church because they can often value the appearance of perfection at the cost of honesty or, more importantly, brokenness. The strict conservative background for the play magnifies this affront to a disheartening degree. Where even molestation and pregnancies are covered up to keep up appearances. When main characters Melchior decides to question what he has learned, or Moritz has no one to turn to when his faith and what is happening inside him seems to conflict, the timeless feeling of loss and escape become the appropriate answer when there is no one to instruct them. “Spring Awaking” cries out for guidance and truth. In “Mama Who Bore Me,” the cast of girls angrily plead for a mother with explanations. However, the play also does not let the teens off the hook for their actions. Tragedies befall them, and their own selfishness causes them equal grief. But even through all the suffering, “Spring Awakening” leaves you energized for life.

Teen angst belongs onstage and director Michael Mayer realizes this. It’s over dramatic, it’s a hundred different conflicting feelings at once and all that hormonal energy bursts through every single song. Instead of Broadway headsets and an orchestra pit, the actors are handed microphones to give it that concert feel. Also aiding to the energy is a full rock band and two sets of bleachers bookending the stage with audience members dropped into the center of the action. The cast’s excitement is contagious and it’s difficult for anyone watching to not at least tap their toes to the beat because you understand that feeling. “The Bitch of Living” is a prime example when the preparatory class of boys screams through their sexual confusion. Even when it’s silly, even when you know its not as heartbreaking as they think, the emotion of the songs are piercing and every single person in the audience no matter the age are transported back to how they felt at fifteen. Composer and former Billboard charter Duncan Sheik understood how to create a soundtrack that would bridge the gap between an iPod generation and theatrical entrepreneurs. Underneath the provocative songs and shocking behavior is an artistic tool for parents and children to find middle ground and start a dialogue. What “Spring Awakening” inevitably attempts to do is shake its audience in every way possible in order to make them realize how important a guiding hand is to a growing child. And how dangerous a life can turn without it or worse, when that hand abuses the power in any way. The children will ultimately pay the price and awake into adulthood unprepared.

Note: “Spring Awakening” is currently on tour nationwide.

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