"In Your Face and Excellent"
by Dan Chasemore for remotegoat on 14/04/09

Spring Awakening is a vulgar, stylish, odd and affecting musical that I was just not expecting. And I loved it.

As an adaptation of a banned 19th century German play of the same name, Spring Awakenings roots were always going to be in the taboo. Telling the story of a group of teenaged school children, it deals with masturbation, sex, abortion and existentialism. Although this is not what the piece is truly about. What Spring Awakening manages to masterfully convey is exactly what it is like to be a teenager. As High School Musical has outsold every DVD in history painting a picture of what teenaged life should be, Spring Awakening shows us how it actually felt to be a moody teenager. The popular rebel doesn't get the girl and save the day; he is expelled and sent to borstal. The frumpy leading lady isn't transformed into a stunning beauty when she removes her glasses; she struggles with her feeling of sexuality and ends up pregnant.

It has always been the number one rule of musical theatre that the songs should move the plot forward, and drive the narrative. Spring Awakening however ditches this formula, and lets us into the characters' thoughts and feelings at that exact moment; feelings that are instantly recognisable to the audience. I recognised myself in the headmasters office, about to get my comeuppance for a prank or pratfall I had visited on my teachers. How much would I have loved to pull out a microphone and lead my friends in an in-your-face rock song entitled 'You're F*cked'?

And that is the huge strength of the show. It invites us to relive those moments of youth, and articulates those feelings and emotions with an energy and creativity that I can remember the teenaged taste of. It may not have been be up there with the microphone, but it was certainly how I wanted to think of myself.

Performances from the impossibly young cast are superb, with the programme noting that most are enjoying their professional debuts. Aneurin Barnard as the hero Melchior has a confidence and swagger that could front any indie band and Iwan Rheon's portrayal of a twitchy and mixed up Moritz brings to mind a cross between Morrisey and Ian Curtis.

Not everyone will like Spring Awakening. It is brash and cool and young and jagged. But if nothing else, it is original, and that should be applauded.

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