09 December 2006

Oh, You're Gonna Be My Bruise

I saw Spring Awakening twice Off Broadway - first at the second preview, and then after opening, from one of the on-stage seats. I loved the show madly, and have spent much breath and energy telling everyone I can find how wonderful it is, and how new, how important for musical theatre. So you can imagine the build-up walking into the Big Broadway Theatre to see it again last night.

First of all, just seeing the set really hit me. I don't think I've ever been so attached to a show I didn't work on. In part, that's due to my talking it up so much - I tend to make it The Savior Of Musical Theatre. But still, seeing the set transposed to that space was impressive. They've done an admirable job of maintaining something I think was vital to the original production - the lack of barrier between the audience and stage. The on-stage seating is preserved, as are the steps leading down the front of the stage, and the set still has a sense (if diminished) of bleeding into the audience. It's beautiful.

The whole thing's transferred really well. Michael and I (and thank you for one of the bestbirthday presents ever) were sitting front row, which is really intense, especially when the actors are sitting on the steps four feet from your face. I think some of the performances have been bumped up for the bigger theatre, but I doubt that's noticeable from even a little farther back. Stephen Spinella is a gorgeous addition to the cast, giving beautiful performances as the adult men. The changes to the show - a new song, a much tighter second act, and, I think, a few lines added here and there for clarification - are all for the better. (One line that I loved and I'm pretty sure is new is Melchior's father pointing out that since Melchior understood what sex is and how women get pregnant, he knew what he was doing to Wendla, the danger he was putting her in.)

I had a little trouble in the first act. Having spent the last few months broadcasting my love for this show, I'd forgotten some of the flaws, so being reminded of them was, I guess, disappointing. Some of the acting (again, close up) feels mannery. (But that's arguably intentional.) Some of the writing, especially in the scene with Melchior, Wendla, and the switch, doesn't work for me. For that scene, between the writing and, to a lesser degree, the acting, I've never been able to follow the characters' logic and emotional path without having to think it out and logicize it in my head.

After mentioning the way I was noticing flaws at intermission, though, and realizing it was only because I'd been focusing so much on the good when talking about the show, I was able to get back to what I love in the second act. The scene with Ilsa feels so much tighter than it used to, and the opening of the act is really beautiful. I especially noticed that the ensemble guys are totally solid in their roles - Skylar Astin, who happened to be on my side of the stage a lot, was particularly great to watc, and listen to, with his crazy gospel belt - especially in the reformatory scene. I know it was me getting more comfortable in the second act, rather than the actors, but everyone shone. John Gallagher (Jr.) completely kicked "I Don't Do Sadness"'s ass, and Jonathan Groff, powerful through the whole thing, still manages to nail a very awkwardly written (again, maybe intentionally) final scene just like he did Off Broadway.

After the first or second time I saw the show Off Broadway, I started listening to Duncan Sheik's music (inherited with James' computer), and I love it very much. There's a bit in his song "You're In Magazines" that segues easily into the Spring Awakening powerhouse finale, "Song of Purple Summer," which makes for some odd stuck-in-my-head moments. You're in porn... la la laa... rousing ballad of hope...

I've only sat front-row at, I think, two Broadway shows - Rent (that's where the lottery seats are) and now this. Always interesting to be crying through the finale, and be noticed by a cast member. And it's happened both times. (I did see Rent front row once without becoming a weepy mess.) Last night I got a little teary a few times, including the last scene, but then they come out with "Song of Purple Summer," which is a powerful, incredibly beautiful song, and I'm lost. It's the song, and the play, but also what it means to me, why I do theatre, and why I love theatre. So there I am, front row, and there's the cast, standing at the edge of the stage, which is the stairs, which end at my feet, so standing, like, right in front of me. And the little teeny ensemble girl (seen here) sees me bawling, and smiles, and we spend the rest of the song catching each other's eye and doing lots of silent "You're crying," "It's okay," "Thank you," "Thank you," "Your show is the most beautiful thing in the world," or some approximation thereof. I didn't see, but Michael told me she was crying by the time the song ended. Tis better to give than to receive. (I would love to be able to tell her why I was crying, that it's more than a sad scene and a beautiful song, beautiful and sad and hopeful as they might be. Remy Zaken, you out there? Googling yourself? Hi.)

And then three curtain calls later, it was done. (Speaking of curtain calls, I'm almost surprised the audience wasn't on its feet after "Totally Fucked." They would not stop clapping. It is a fucking fantastic song, but I've never heard anything like that.)

Get tickets to this show. If you love theatre. If you hate musicals. Go to the website. Watch this little video preview thing. (Enjoy Duncan Sheik's delightful awkwardness, and forgive the music-video awkwardness of the musical numbers. They're not like that on stage.) Listen to the music. And then go see the show.



Scotty said...

I just saw "Spring Awakening" for my birthday too! Last week, and I can't get it out of my head... I really want to see it again ... and again... and again... It is so beautiful! And, Remy Zaken is one of my favorite parts of this show... Maybe I'm just nutty, but I caught her eye a few times too, and it seems like she is really loving and living her role... The entire show is great, and all who are even REMOTELY intersted should check it out... :)

Anonymous said...

I'm right there with you! I was in the front row, end seats, and I'm 13 years old sitting there, just singing along with the rest of the cast. AND I SWARE I had the same experience: I kept catching certain members of the casts' eye and we had a silent relationship as well (mainly Lea, Remy, Johathan Groff, and the new guy that play Moritz). I loved it so much, we went back to see it three more times that weekend and I've been obsessed with it since. There just aren't words to describe it.... that's just it.