Sunday, December 10, 2006

Spring Awakening


Music by Duncan Sheik; Book and Lyrics by Steven Sater, Adapted from the play by Frank Wedekind. Directed by Michael Mayer. (CLOSED)

Lots of love for the lovelorn, sex-crazed, anti-conformist 19th century German teenagers at the heart of Spring Awakening. A couple of critics mentioned their dislike for the show's new ending, and that a few of the performances had not translated well to the larger canvas of Broadway. Nevertheless, critics remain ecstatic about the musical, which, considering how deeply strange a show it is, is kind of remarkable.

NYTimes A
(Charles Isherwood) Spring Awakening has been created with such care and craft that the voyage back is a deeply rewarding one. Michael Mayer’s seamless direction works hand in hand with the inventive but unshowy choreography of Bill T. Jones to give potent physical expression to the turbulent impulses of adolescents living splintered lives. Outwardly, in narrative scenes written by Mr. Sater in a formal language appropriate to the era, they are obedient schoolchildren kept on short leashes by their stern parents and watchful teachers. But under their girlish frocks and constricting uniforms, the souls of incipient rock stars squirm and throb, bursting forth whenever a riff from a guitar signals the unquenchable force of their flourishing ids.

Variety A
(David Rooney) Sater's book and lyrics seem to capture from within the uniquely teenage feeling that every emotion is the most tempestuous, frightening, passionate or exciting one ever experienced. Factor in Sheik's melodic alt-rock score, which shifts easefully between dreamy and driving modes, Mayer's highly physical direction, choreographer Bill T. Jones' convulsive movement and some of the richest, most full-bodied ensemble singing heard on Broadway in a long time, and you have a show that bristles with rawness, vitality and urgency.

Washington Post A
(Peter Marks) In this new musical by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater, the songs radiate their own remarkable vitality, regardless of whether the underlying sentiment of each is longing or grief or ecstasy. In its depiction of teenagers obsessed with sex and oppressed by their parents, Spring Awakening is a chronicle of the torments of the young. But it also provides refreshment for those who no longer are.

Associated Press A
(Michae Kuchwara) The show, directed with driving force by Michael Mayer, has astonishing unity, a clarity of purpose. The songs comment on the action, which Mayer pushes with blazing speed. Although production values have been enhanced, the setting, designed by Christine Jones, is still minimal. A small band sits on the nearly empty stage as do the actors when they are not performing. The performers mingle among several rows of theatergoers also seated on the sides of the playing area.

Bloomberg A-
(John Simon) I could also have wished for a less obviously feelgood ending than one in which the quick and the dead join hands in a hopeful anthem. But enough carping. Spring Awakening' strikingly augurs the genre's future.

USA Today A-
(Elysa Gardner) Beautiful, messy, exhilarating, awkward, vital: They're all adjectives you might use to describe first love. So it's fitting that you could also readily apply them to Spring Awakening, the imperfect but transcendent new musical that opened Sunday at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre.

Newday A-
(Linda Winer) Except for a terribly disappointing "let-the-sunshine-in-we-love-you-tomorrow" anthem of hopeful redemption at the end, the production has not betrayed its dark soul for Broadway consumption. Choreographer Bill T. Jones, the modern-dance master in his terrific Broadway debut, brings out both the creepy and romantic eroticism. When not stomping in formless frustration and climbing walls, the young people touch their bodies in a ritualized series of intimate explorations, as if they are trying to feel where they end and the world begins.

Village Voice B
(Michael Feingold) Spring Awakening's shortfall occurs in its songs. Sheik's music tends to be effective rather than memorable, partly because Steven Sater's lyrics often sound like ideas for lyrics (or worse, ideas about lyrics) rather than supplying the pop-poetic zing that makes a lyric unforgettable. There are places, too, where the songs need to convey a dramatic turning point, and instead fall into the basic problem of pop-rock songwriting for the stage: Their repetitive patterns lack theatricality.

AP A13; NYTimesa A13; WaPo A13; Variety A13; Bloomberg A-12; USAToday A-12 ; Newsday A-12; VV B10; TOTAL = 98/8 = 12.25 A-

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