Spring Awakening, the thundering rock musical about adolescent angst in 19th-century Germany, returns for a quick two-day run over the weekend at the Orpheum Theatre. It's certainly worth a look for theater lovers who have missed it up to now and fans will certainly delight in a chance for a return visit of the musical that nabbed eight Tony Awards.
In an uptight, repressed land, several students begin to break out of their predetermined roles and wonder what their expectations should be for their lives. Anyone with a passing knowledge of German literature can probably guess it's not going to end well for our leads, but their journey--first presented in Frank Wedekind's 1891 play--makes for an engaging show. That comes, in part, from the free mixing of the 19th-century setting with modern trappings, such as the opening where the students break out of a boring Latin lecture by pulling microphones out of their pockets and blasting away the boredom with some rock 'n' roll.
The real star here is the music, crafted by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater. Most "rock" musicals sound like they were crafted by people with knowledge (sometimes great knowledge) of rock music, but miss out on the raw passion for the sound. Sheik--who hit the top 10 with his first single "Barely Breathing" and has had an uneven solo career in the years since--isn't going to be confused with Mick Jagger, but there's a lot of rawness in his best music (it's no mistake that the title of his best of collection evoked Nick Drake) and that plays well in a story that deals with sexuality and breaking away from societal norms. Tickets are $15 to $60.
(If you are interested in seeing the original play, Hamline's theater department is presenting the show over the next two weekends in a new translation by school graduate Nicole Bachman and directed by theater professor Jeff Turner.)