“There’s a moment you know you’re f*cked. Not an inch more room to self-destruct.”
So begins the aptly-titled song “Totally F*cked”, about adolescents watching their peers crumble under societal pressures. The song is from the musical “Spring Awakening”, an anthem to every teen who thought the adults in their life had tuned them out.
“Spring Awakening” premieres on Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m. in DePaul’s Merle Reskin Theatre. It started life in 1891 as a controversial German play about the perils of growing up: masturbation, abuse, sex and suicide. The story looked frankly at shame and desperation, and no character made it through unscathed.
Its 2006 adaptation is no less serious, but a rock score by Duncan Sheik provides moments of hope, and even–as one boy sings about being distracted by his piano teacher’s bosom–comedy.
There is much to like about this musical: the cast are energetic and the music is fun and irreverent. However, this musical about growing up experienced some growing pains of its own.
“Spring Awakening” started strong. The first act was well-paced, endearing, comic, and bleak. Leading lady Wendla, played with earnest naiveté by Sonaz Izadi, sounded shaky as she opened with “Mama Who Bore Me”, but improved as she gathered momentum and remained strong throughout the show.
The best acting performance was Joe Keery’s Melchior. Keery imbued his rebellious character with a righteous disdain for the adults around him, while preserving a kindness that made him likable. Unfortunately, Keery’s singing voice isn’t as strong as his acting, and at times he couldn’t be heard over the chorus.
The second act struggled. Climactic scenes felt rushed or glossed over, giving the audience no chance to digest what happened in each scene. Part of this might be script limitations, but it would have been nice to see the characters slow down and feel the consequences of those moments the way they did in the first act.
The set was simple, and utilized the Reskin’s space effectively. Tall trees bathed in blue light remained onstage the entire show, while various rooms were indicated only by a picture and a few chairs. The best part of the scenery was the musicians–a string quartet and a rock ensemble–who were visible through the trees behind a transparent screen, peeking out as they supplied a soundtrack to the young lives onstage.
The songs were the relief to the plot’s darkness: “The Bitch of Living” and “Totally Fucked” were raucous and emphatic, while “Don’t Do Sadness/Blue Wind” was lovely and sweetly sad. But group harmonies were rough at times. There were moments when everyone connected and the audience could hear how great the song sounded. But there were moments of discord that made some audience members visibly wince.
“Spring Awakening” doesn’t officially premiere until the 28th, so hopefully the cast will work out the kinks they experienced here. If they do, “Spring Awakening” still won’t be a musical to see for laughs, but it will definitely keep you thinking long after the curtain falls.
*banner credit to the “Spring Awakening” Tour webpage. http://www.springawakening.com/