The new Broadway musical Spring Awakening is based on an 1891 German play about teenagers discovering their sexuality in a strict, prudish German town. The adults are unwilling to be straightforward and honest with the teenagers about the changes they’re experiencing, and the children are victimized and hurt as a direct result.
The play has essentially been translated verbatim, but songs have been added and both characters and plot points have been fleshed out. The play still takes place in 1890’s Germany (apparent in the costumes and minimal set pieces), but the songs are full-on modern rock.
It actually works remarkably well. The songs generally happen as inner monologues, or as expressions of emotion when words aren’t enough. And it makes sense that in these teenagers’ heads, they hear something akin to rock music. Because rock music has always represented youth, and how youth is misunderstood by the adult world around it.
The show is edgy, unexpected, and full of captivating, addictive tunes. It’s satirical in both comedic and dramatic ways, and it tells its story very well. It also helps that the cast of young actors (plus the two adult actors who play all of the adult characters) are superb, easily attacking both the rock music and the antiquated dialogue with great conviction.
I don’t want to say too much about the content of the show, because you need to see it for yourself. A limited number of $25 student tickets are available at the box office beginning at ten o’clock daily, and there are always seats on stage available for $36 if you’re not squeamish about that sort of thing.