My college age daughter, Christina, heard good reviews about the rock musical “Spring Awakening,” so we jumped at the chance to see it opening night Feb. 8 at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles. It’s in town for just one week, until Feb. 13.
The 2007 Tony Award winner for Best Musical and 2008 Grammy Award winner for best Musical Show Album, “Spring Awakening” is an adaptation of the controversial 1891 German play by Frank Wedekind. The production features music by Duncan Sheik and lyrics by Steven Sater. Although “Spring Awakening” takes place in late 19th century Germany, the direction of Michael Mayer and choreography by Bill T. Jones add modern and entertaining elements to the production. I especially enjoyed the choreography, which at times reminded me of music videos. My daughter liked that the musical weaved in dialogue in many scenes, making the story clear to follow. Note that “Spring Awakening” contains mature themes, explicit sexual situations and strong language.
The first act opens with sheltered Wendla Bergmann (Elizabeth Judd), whose mother (Sarah Kleeman) can’t bring herself to explain the facts of life. The other young girls in town are equally innocent about boys. Meanwhile, the teenage boys in town have their own issues, dealing with harsh school rules and their own sexual curiosities.
The story follows the saga of Moritz Stiefel (Coby Getzug), a nervous and intense boy who struggles in school and at home with his strict parents. His pal, handsome and intelligent Melchior Gabor (Christopher Wood), tries to help his friend while also dealing with his own frustration at being caught between childhood and adulthood.
Midway through the musical, there is an intense sexual scene between Melchior and Wendla, longtime childhood friends whose feelings now blossom into young love. The action peaks in the second act, which continues with the young couple’s love scene. In the meantime, a depressed Moritz is kicked out of his house and ends his life. Adding to the drama, Wendla becomes pregnant and her horrified mother forces her to have an abortion.
In the dark about the pregnancy because his parents had sent him to a reform school, Melchior gets into a fight with some boys who grab a letter he receives from Wendla. Learning of her pregnancy, he escapes from the institution to find her. Instead, he finds her grave.
The musical concludes with the cast singing “The Song of Purple Summer,” a number about life and hope.
Show times are 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $25 – $90. In addition, a day-of-performance lottery for a limited number of $25 on-stage seats is held daily. Show up two-and-a-half hours before show time to place your name in a lottery drum.
The Pantages Theatre is located at 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. For online tickets, visit www.BroadwayLA.org.