Spring Awakening is a groundbreaking rock musical by Duncan Sheik and Stephen Sater based on the 1871 play by Frank Wedekind that caused much controversy in Germany when first published. The show deals with issues of sex, abortion, masturbation, homosexuality and abuse and is famous for its eclectic score and memorable production. The musical started out as an Off-Broadway hit, before transferring to Broadway and becoming the most popular musical of the season. The show took home a whole host of Tony Awards including the award for Best New Musical. Despite this success, the show was not a hit in the UK and ran for just over two months, closing early after bad ticket sales. The show starred a young Lea Michelle and Jonathan Groff, who would later go on to be on-screen lovers in the hit comedy ‘Glee’.
Spring Awakening by Frank Wedekind
Ira Pittelman, Tom Hulce, Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, Atlantic Theater Company, Jeffrey Sine, Freddy DeMann,Max Cooper, Mor
Bill T Jones
Original Broadway Production: December 10, 2006 – January 18, 2009; Eugene O’Neill (888 performances)
Original Broadway Cast: Jonathan Groff, Lea Michelle, John Gallagher Jr, Lauren Pritchard.
Original London Production: March 21, 2009 – May 30, 2009; Novello Theatre
What was your favourite production? Add your thoughts in the comments box
It’s late 19th Century Germany and Wendla Bergmann, a teenager is angry at her mother for not teaching her what she needs to know in life, (“Mamma Who Bore Me”). She asks to learn about where babies are from but her mother cannot bring herself to tell her, saying it happens only when a woman loves her husband very much.
At school a group of teenage boys are studying Latin. Moritz Stiefel is a nervous boy and is yelled at by his teacher for getting a line wrong. His friend Melchior Gabor jumps to his defence but the teacher hits him with a cane. Melchior discusses the wrongs with society, (“All That’s Known”). Moritz tells Melchior about dreams he has been having that he thinks makes him insane. Melchior explains to him that these erotic dreams are normal and all boys experience them. Moritz asks Melchior to write down all the information in a book as he is scared of discussing it, (“The Bitch of Living”).
A group of girls fantasise about marrying boys they know, especially Melchior, (“My Junk”). Hanschen masturbates whilst looking at an erotic picture and Georg has fantasies about his piano teacher. Moritz has used the book Melchior made for him, but admits that it has only fuelled his imagination further. The boys and girls sing about their desire to be intimate, “Touch Me”.
Wendla finds Melchior in the woods and they sit together. They discuss the possibility of giving in to their desires but decide not to, (“The Word of Your Body”). Moritz looks at his school marks to see that he has passed his midterms, but is failed by his teacher anyway. Martha tells her friends that her father sexually abuses her and that her mother does nothing to stop it. The girls are shocked but promise not to tell anyone. She doesn’t want to end up like Ilse, an old friend who has been kicked out of the house (“The Dark I Know Well”). Wendla tells Melchior about the abuse and asks him to hit her with a stick and he reluctantly does, enjoying it the more he hits her. He runs away and Wendla finds his diary.
Mortiz’s parents are disgusted to learn their son has failed his exams and are worried about what other people will think. Moritz writes to Melchior’s mother and asks for money to run away to America, and begins to contemplate suicide when she refuses. Wendla meets Melchior in a hay loft where Melchior is disturbed at the thought of being stuck between adulthood and childhood (“The Mirror Blue Night”). He begins to kiss Wendla who doesn’t understand his advances and soon they are having sex, and it is unsure if Wendla consents, (“I Believe”).
Melchior and Wendla reflect on their post-coital feelings, (“The Guilty Ones”). Moritz begins to wonder around the woods after being thrown out of his home. He is carrying a pistol and meets Ilse on the road, (“Don’t Do Sadness”). Ilse is in love with Moritz but he refuses her advances, (“Don’t Do Sadness”) and as they come close to kissing she leaves. Moritz realises his feelings and tries to call to her but she has disappeared. He shoots himself.
At his funeral the school children gather around his grave (“Left Behind”). The school teachers go through his belongings and find the book written by Melchior and blame him for Moritz’s death and expel him, “Totally Fucked”. Hanschen meets his classmate Ernst and the two kiss (“Word of Your Body Reprise”).
Wendla is taken to the doctors and her mother is told that she is pregnant. She does not know how it has happened and realises that her mother has lied to her about where babies come from. She tells her mother who the father is and it ends with a certain degree of optimism, (“Whispering”). Melchior’s parents begin to discuss sending him to reform school but argue about what to do with him. They find out he is the father of Wendla’s child and send him away. Wendla and Melchior communicate with each other through letters and Melchior escapes to find her but doesn’t realise that she has been taken to have an abortion clinic. He tries to find her and comes across Mortiz’s grave. Melchior then sees the grave of Wendla and realises she has died from a botched abortion. As he is about to kill himself, the spirits of Moritz and Wendla come to offer him strength, (“Those You’ve Known”). The whole company arrive and sing “The Song of Purple Summer”.
- Mama Who Bore Me” – Wendla
- “Mama Who Bore Me” (Reprise) – Wendla and Girls
- “All That’s Known” – Melchior
- “The Bitch of Living” – Moritz, Melchior and Boys
- “My Junk” – Girls and Boys
- “Touch Me” – Boys and Girls
- “The Word of Your Body” – Wendla and Melchior
- “The Dark I Know Well” – Martha, Ilse and Boys
- “And Then There Were None” – Moritz and Boys
- “The Mirror-Blue Night” – Melchior and Boys
- “I Believe” – Boys and Girls
- The Guilty Ones” – Wendla, Melchior, Boys and Girls
- “Don’t Do Sadness” – Moritz
- “Blue Wind” – Ilse
- “Don’t Do Sadness/Blue Wind” – Moritz and Ilse
- “Left Behind” – Melchior, Boys and Girls
- “Totally Fucked” – Melchior and Full Company (except Moritz)
- “The Word of Your Body” (Reprise) – Hanschen, Ernst, Boys and Girls
- “Whispering” – Wendla
- “Those You’ve Known” – Moritz, Wendla and Melchior
- “The Song of Purple Summer” – Ilse and Full Company
2007 Tony Awards: Best Musical, Best Book, Best Original Score, Best Featured Actor, Best Direction, Best Choreography, Best Orchestrations, Best Lighting Design.
2010: Oliver Awards: Best New Musical, Best Actor in a Musical, Best Performance in a Supporting Role, Best Sound Design.
UK: Josef Weinberger
USA: Musical Theatre International