It’s 1891, and grown-ups hold all the cards. With only each other and  a few books for guidance, this group of young men and women travel the fraught and rocky path of adolescence struggling to live up to the stringent expectations of their parents and society. . An electric, vibrant celebration of youth and rebellion, Spring Awakening fuses issues of morality, sexuality, and rock and roll into a story that packs a powerful emotional punch for teen trying to find themselves.

The Story....

Act I

Wendla Bergmann, an adolescent in late-nineteenth century Germany, laments that her mother has not taught her the lessons she is meant to know as a young woman She tells her mother that it is time she learned where babies come from, considering that she is about to be an aunt for the second time. Her mother cannot bring herself to explain the facts of life clearly to Wendla, despite knowing her daughter is reaching puberty. The other young girls in town appear to be similarly innocent and are upset about the lack of knowledge presented to them.

At school, some teenage boys are studying Virgil in Latin class. When Moritz Stiefel, a very nervous and intense young man, sleepily misquotes a line, the teacher chastises him harshly. Moritz’s classmate, the rebellious and highly intelligent Melchior Gabor, tries to defend him reflects on the shallow narrow-mindedness of school and society and expresses his intent to change things.

Moritz describes a dream that has been keeping him up at night, and Melchior realizes that Moritz has been having erotic dream which Moritz believes are signs of insanity. To comfort the panicked Moritz, Melchior, who has only been able to learn about the fact of life  from books, tells Moritz that all of the boys at their age get these dreams. Moritz, who is not comfortable talking about the subject with Melchior, requests that he give him the information in the form of an essay.

Some girls are gathered together after school and tease each other as they fantasize about marrying the boys in the town. 

Searching for flowers for her mother, Wendla stumbles upon Melchior. The two reminisce on the friendship they once shared as children and share a moment while sitting together in front of a tree. Meanwhile, at school, Moritz sneaks a look at his test results and is thrilled to learn that he has passed his midterm examinations. However, the teachers, who claim they cannot pass everyone, decide to fail Moritz anyway, deeming his passing grade still not up to the school's lofty standards.

Martha, one of the teenage girls, accidentally admits to her friends that her father abuses her and that her mother is either oblivious or uncaring.  Later, Wendla finds Melchior again at his spot in the woods and tells him about Martha's abuse. 

Moritz is told he has failed his final examination, and his parents reacts with disdain and contempt when Moritz tells them that he will not progress in school; rather than attempting to understand their son's pain. Moritz's parents only concerned with how the others in town will react. Moritz begins to contemplate suicide.

In a stuffy hayloft during a storm, Melchior cries out in his frustration at being caught between childhood and adulthood.  Wendla resists his advances at first; she doesn't really understand what's going on between them and is reluctant to partake, sensing that what they are doing is something very powerful and unlike anything that she has known before. 

Act II

Moritz, having been thrown out of his home, wanders the town at dusk, carrying a pistol when he comes across Ilse, an old childhood friend of his.   Moritz refuses to go home with Ilse and she  leaves, distraught and upset.  Alone and believing that he has nowhere to turn, Moritz shoots himself.

At Moritz's funeral, each of the children (including Ilse) drops a flower into his grave as they lament the passing of their friend.  Back at school, the schoolmaster and teacher feel the need to call attention away from Moritz, whose death was a direct result of their actions. They search through Moritz's belongings and find the essay on sex which Melchior wrote for him. 

Wendla has become ill, and her mother requests a doctor.  Wendla is pregnant. When her mother confronts her with this information, Wendla is completely shocked, not understanding how this could have happened.  Meanwhile, the parents argue about Melchior’s fate and he is sent away to reform school. 

During this time, Melchior and Wendla keep contact through the use of letters, At the reform school, Melchior gets into a fight with some boys who grab a letter he has just received from Wendla. As one of the boys reads from the letter, Melchior finally learns about Wendla and their child, and he escapes from the institution to meet her. 

At the cemetery, Melchior stumbles across Moritz's grave, but when Wendla is late to the meeting, Melchior begins to feel a little uneasy. Looking around, Melchior sees a grave he hadn't noticed before and realizes that Wendla has died from a botched abortion. 

Led by Ilse, everyone assembles onstage, to sing about how although the adults may still call the shots with their upright, conservative views, they won't last forever, and the seeds are already being planted for a new, liberal minded, progressive generation.

Musical Numbers

Act I
  • "Mama Who Bore Me" 
  • "Mama Who Bore Me" 
  • "All That's Known"
  • "The Bitch of Living" 
  • "My Junk" 
  • "Touch Me" 
  • "The Word of Your Body" Wendla and Melchior
  • "The Dark I Know Well"
  • "And Then There Were None" 
  • "The Mirror-Blue Night" 
  • "I Believe" 

Act II
  • "The Guilty Ones"  
  • "Don't Do Sadness" 
  • "Blue Wind" 
  • "Don't Do Sadness/Blue Wind 
  • "Left Behind" 
  • "Totally Fucked" 
  • "The Word of Your Body" 
  • "Whispering" 
  • "Those You've Known" 
  • "The Song of Purple Summer" 

THE SHOW extra info.

Written by the German dramatist Frank Wedekind between Autumn 1890 and Spring 1891, the play criticises the religiously and sexually oppressive, overbearing culture of the 19th century and offers a vivid dramatisation of what this breeds. First performed as a play in 1906, it is a frank portrayal of how a dozen young people make their way through the thrilling, complicated, confusing and mysterious time of growing up.  It's not an easy watch at times and although certainly a product of it's time it’s re-occuring themes make it an appealing choice for a talented group of young actors willing to be challenged.

Years on Spring Awakening is now studied religiously in German schools, in both Health and History classes, and many colleges around the UK. It is considered a seminal work, a comment on the hypocrisy of raising children in the 19th Century and the resulting chaos this often brought. In recent years it has been made into a musical, winning eight Tonys', a Grammy, four Oliviers and numerous other International awards. It's 'musical' treatment has enable it to be brought to a new audience, with a new vision and a new appreciation.

Here are a few comments and reviews from around the world:

From a Father after his son had been cast as Moritz:

bolted the door and went through your lines like an owl flying through a burning wood. I think I read most of it with my eyes shut. And when I opened them I remembered….what it was like to be a teenager!

From a family after seeing the show on Broadway:

A Parent’s Review

Dear mum or dad of a teen:

If your little darling is in school with a serious boyfriend or girlfriend, or an 11-year-old who inadvertently stumbles upon unsuitable sites every other time he/she is in front of a monitor, you should see Spring Awakening – if for no other reason than to let the aforementioned little darling know that YOU are fully aware of what goes on in the mind  of a young person… 

But don’t get me wrong — there are lots of other reasons to see Spring Awakening.

This rock musical is fully loaded, edgy, and sexually charged. It will make your mind race, your imagination run wild, and it might make you feel a little, well—uncomfortable. But more importantly, it is an extremely creative and mostly innocuous introduction to serious subject matter: emerging sexuality, religion, sexual abuse, depression, abortion, teen suicide,  and parental expectation and educational failure. No biggie, really. These are the kinds of subjects that are handled with regularity in poorly written and cheaply produced coming-of-age movies on the big screen all summer long. But unlike what you might see in a typical teen movie, the topics aren’t handled with raunchy humor, but with tender sensitivity. It’s this tender and artistic presentation that should serve as a springboard to important dialogue with the teen in the seat next to you. Spring Awakening is good news for parents who recognise the value in talking to their teens.

Still, for all its gravitas, the play ends on an upbeat note with a message of hope.

A Teen’s Review

I walked into Theatre with only slight apprehension, confident that Spring Awakening would not present any overtly controversial material. After all, the semi-geriatric crowd would not stand for such an avant-garde portrayal of the discovery of sexuality. Surely, these themes would be implied and not divulged frankly.

However, eyes widened and eyebrows raised as the first act displayed sexuality, along with the more disturbing issues of physical abuse and adolescent depression. From a teenage point of view, the musical numbers were a montage of health-class topics presented as part of a performance. The abundance of controversial material should have seemed staged, but it didn't. From the beginning of the play, the characters begin to stray from the path of the picturesque 1890 child, yet by the resolution had developed wisdom that only comes from the experienced.

I found the musical’s application to my spiritual life, my history class, and the worries of friends and loved ones terrifyingly eye opening, and passionate acting and cathartic vocals only enhanced the effect. Spring Awakening is a worthwhile artistic experience for thoughtful and mature appreciators of talent, culture, and the journey to find oneself.

 

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