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'Spring Awakening': What did the critics think?

November 5, 2008 | 11:30 am


One can be excused if he or she is a bit confused by "Spring Awakening." After all, if asked about the story line for the musical, which opened last week at the Ahmanson Theatre, the quick answer is: A bunch of horny teens in late-19th century Germany dance around and sing about sex, sexual repression, sexual obsession, sexual rebellion and other things related to, well, sex. Oh, and it's rather bleak and downbeat.

But "Spring Awakening" is much more than that, right? Surely Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik's show, with choreography by Bill T. Jones, didn't win the 2007 best musical Tony Award for nothing.

Let's see what the critics had to say about the Ahmanson production:

"Even if the subject matter seems like water under the bridge to some of you, 'Spring Awakening' is worth seeing for its utterly original production," says Los Angeles Times critic Charles McNulty, as well as "the production is the star, and it's a dazzler."

Bob Verini of Variety says: "Composer Duncan Sheik's ravishing melodies consistently complement Sater's ability to nail an emotion or state of being in a single, stunning lyrical image."

Saying the show isn't for everyone, Paul Hodgins of the Orange County Register writes: "...the biggest challenge to enjoying 'Spring Awakening': buying into the disjunction between setting and style. If you're not bothered by it, you'll enjoy the show. If you are, then you'll be in deep trouble from the start."

“I found myself more dazzled than moved, but dazzle can be a good thing, and the production is too ornate an accomplishment to be ignored,” says Steven Leigh Morris of L.A. Weekly.

"It's not simply the energy these young cast members (choreographed by Bill T. Jones) supply or the boldness with which director Michael Mayer guides them," writes Evan Henderson, late of the Los Angeles Daily News, who calls the show a “very cool and very spicy rock musical.”

"Spring Awakening" runs through Dec. 7 at the Ahmanson Theatre.

--Lisa Fung

Photo credit: Paul Kolnik / Center Theatre Group

Comments () | Archives (3)


If you're 13 years old, this is an OMG play. If you're anyone else, it's WTF. While some of the lyrics are interesting, the music is pretentious and forgettable. The choreography and staging is bad MTV (come on, do we need to see girls fondling themseves in every freaking song, and what's with everyone pulling microphones out of their costumes?). There are a few fine performances but most are simply bargain-basement. The script is mostly melodrama _ like a Lifetime movie or back-to-school special about the perils of sex. There are has a few flashes of wit _ the fun of seeing a 19th Century teen crudely masturbate while spouting Classical romantic claptrap _ but mostly the play has nothing smart to say. Budding sexuality is a wonderful theater subject _ going all the way back to Romeo and Juliet _ but this is just overheated shlock. I really wanted to like it, given the reviews, but honestly, I was let down by its shallow views of the subject and its tacky anachronism. It makes "Twilight" seem like a thoughtful dissection of love. Adolescents are passionate, instinctual, frequently confused and struggling with powerful emotions, true. But they're also smart and they deserve a more sophisticated mirror.

Is anybody awake out there? How does this speak to a generation that has total freedom? I was embarrassed and angered by the show...not because I'm some sort of intolerant puritan, but because I felt that the story was predictable at every turn, the music edgy only for it's edginess, the sexual exploits only seeking to be purely shocking, and the two main characters attempting to have some thread of character and moral backbone only to be overshadowed by writers and directors who feel that this is "art" at its best. I felt this to be art at its worst, preaching to the choir a message for which this particular generation of youth has absolutely no knowledge, and attacking a time period in the "church" for which today in America there is no parallel on a national level. So, wake up folks. Have "some" scruples, or have none, at least be honest about it.


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