Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Blame-Thrower

When Spring Awakening won eight Tony Awards for 2007, including Best Musical, word around the Big Apple went that it would never tour, that it was strictly a “New York show.” Why? Frank Wedekind’s “tragedy of childhood,” on which the musical’s based, is just too controversial, too sexually explicit for the provinces.

Well, Spring is explicit, but almost tastefully so. The sex scenes, including masturbation beneath a nightshirt, aren’t done to titillate. They illustrate youthful perplexity as much as — and often during — erotic pleasure. If one finds such sights offensive, then one should stay away. For the rest of us provincials, though, Spring’s a bullet-train ride back to the days of raging hormones.

Shakespeare said, “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” How Wedekind’s adolescents experience that epic but fleeting “touch” and how their elders stifle it are what the musical’s about.

Wedekind wrote the play in 1891, but because it was so “obscene,” he couldn’t get it produced for 15 years. In brief, often fragmentary scenes, teenage self-discovery clashes with lockstep repression. The play takes place in a rural German town. Melchior Gabor’s mother won’t let him read Goethe’s Faust because it’s “too radical.” Moritz Stiefel isn’t measuring up in school and fears how his parents will react. Young Wendla Bergmann’s mother, who assures her 14-year-old daughter that babies come from storks, lengthens Wendla’s frock to make it a more “penitential garment.” Almost by conspiracy, parents and teachers stomp out sexual stirrings in the young. They want their children to “desire what is good rather than what is interesting.” In the process, a “suicide epidemic” breaks out.

Spring Awakening may offend, but not just its explicitness. The show opens with a blame-thrower. There’s no overture, no easing-in period. Christy Altomajre’s excellent Wendla walks out, stands on a chair, and sings “Mama Who Bore Me.” The opening arrests, not merely because it’s so simple (why didn’t anyone think of this before; just enter and go), but because our eyes see one thing and our ears hear another. Wendla tenderly caresses herself, as if exploring uncharted territory, but she sings with controlled ferocity. Her mother gave her “no way to handle things” and made her “so sad.” Winter trumped spring. That’s why “there’s no sleep in heaven, or Bethlehem.”

In the reprise that follows “Mama Who Bore Me,” Wendla’s friends join in (none of whom leaves adolescence unscathed). Their teachers taught guilt, not the facts of life. The twin numbers set the musical’s hurt and angry tone. They also establish its vocal style. Laser-eyed, their mouths sculpting every word, the cast sings front, concert-style. They roar into hand mikes, as if convinced that no one would listen otherwise — or that no one is listening period.

They aren’t just earnest, they’re serious, and never more so than in the show’s — and, some claim, this generation’s — anthem. Hair had “Aquarius,” Rent, “Seasons of Love.” When the cast did a brief medley of the Spring score at the Tonys, it was okay for them to sing about “The Bitch of Living” on TV. But when they came to the anthem, they muted its offensive words: “You can kiss your sorry a** goodbye,” they sang, because life is — the song’s title — “Totally F*****.”

An underlying reason people feared Spring might not tour well, I suspect, is that the original’s such a spare, incredibly tight show that the demands of touring might dilute it. There are no wasted moves, and often it blasts from 0 to 60 in an instant. Plus, the characters are sketchy and require top young talent to get their attitude, that fury, just right.

The production at the Balboa Theatre represents a dual shakedown cruise. The company’s beginning a national tour here, and the renovated theater’s having its first big musical tryout. Flying colors for both. The Balboa’s such a natural venue for this kind of event you wonder why it ever closed.

And the production rocks. Kyle Riabko, as the budding nihilist Melchior, and Blake Bashoff as Moritz (a mesa of brown hair rising from his scalp) head a cast with no weak links. Every move, whether singing out or stomping the floor hard, is absolutely in the moment.

On the technical side, Spring’s both then and now. Kevin Adams’s extraordinary lighting combines neon lines and circles with galaxies of blue, orange, and red stars. The music has rock and hip-hop roots. But the musicians play instruments more attuned to Wedekind’s era: string bass, cello, violin, and viola.

Director Michael Mayer bleachers some audience members on the sides of the stage. (Michael Greif used a similar approach to make his Rent more intimate.) Christine Jones’s scenic design’s also a hybrid. The box set with three red brick walls suggests today. Objects on the walls — a headless body in a casket, an angel’s wing — light up and tell parts of Wedekind’s original story. Among other things, the musical becomes a tour through a sad old museum.

Susan Hilferty’s Edwardian costumes — boys in four-button sport coats, girls in long, puffy-shouldered cottons — make the stage resemble a Harry Potter movie, in which heretofore asexual students encounter a mystery far greater than magic.

Spring Awakening, book and lyrics by Steven Sater, music by Duncan Sheik, based on the play by Frank Wedekind
Balboa Theatre, 854 Fourth Avenue, downtown
Directed by Michael Mayer; cast: Christy Altomare, Kyle Riabko, Blake Bashoff, Matt Schingledecker, Ben Moss, Andy Mientus, Gabrielle Garza, Kimiko Glenn, Steffi D, Sarah Hunt; scenic design, Christine Jones; costumer, Susan Hilferty; lighting, Kevin Adams; sound, Brian Ronan; music director, Jared Stein; choreographer, Bill T. Jones
Playing through August 31; Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Sunday at 6:00 p.m. Matinee Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and Sunday at 1:00 p.m. 619-570-1100.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Hancock Street to get sharrows

"This area will be the next Little Italy"

When Spring Awakening won eight Tony Awards for 2007, including Best Musical, word around the Big Apple went that it would never tour, that it was strictly a “New York show.” Why? Frank Wedekind’s “tragedy of childhood,” on which the musical’s based, is just too controversial, too sexually explicit for the provinces.

Well, Spring is explicit, but almost tastefully so. The sex scenes, including masturbation beneath a nightshirt, aren’t done to titillate. They illustrate youthful perplexity as much as — and often during — erotic pleasure. If one finds such sights offensive, then one should stay away. For the rest of us provincials, though, Spring’s a bullet-train ride back to the days of raging hormones.

Shakespeare said, “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” How Wedekind’s adolescents experience that epic but fleeting “touch” and how their elders stifle it are what the musical’s about.

Wedekind wrote the play in 1891, but because it was so “obscene,” he couldn’t get it produced for 15 years. In brief, often fragmentary scenes, teenage self-discovery clashes with lockstep repression. The play takes place in a rural German town. Melchior Gabor’s mother won’t let him read Goethe’s Faust because it’s “too radical.” Moritz Stiefel isn’t measuring up in school and fears how his parents will react. Young Wendla Bergmann’s mother, who assures her 14-year-old daughter that babies come from storks, lengthens Wendla’s frock to make it a more “penitential garment.” Almost by conspiracy, parents and teachers stomp out sexual stirrings in the young. They want their children to “desire what is good rather than what is interesting.” In the process, a “suicide epidemic” breaks out.

Spring Awakening may offend, but not just its explicitness. The show opens with a blame-thrower. There’s no overture, no easing-in period. Christy Altomajre’s excellent Wendla walks out, stands on a chair, and sings “Mama Who Bore Me.” The opening arrests, not merely because it’s so simple (why didn’t anyone think of this before; just enter and go), but because our eyes see one thing and our ears hear another. Wendla tenderly caresses herself, as if exploring uncharted territory, but she sings with controlled ferocity. Her mother gave her “no way to handle things” and made her “so sad.” Winter trumped spring. That’s why “there’s no sleep in heaven, or Bethlehem.”

In the reprise that follows “Mama Who Bore Me,” Wendla’s friends join in (none of whom leaves adolescence unscathed). Their teachers taught guilt, not the facts of life. The twin numbers set the musical’s hurt and angry tone. They also establish its vocal style. Laser-eyed, their mouths sculpting every word, the cast sings front, concert-style. They roar into hand mikes, as if convinced that no one would listen otherwise — or that no one is listening period.

They aren’t just earnest, they’re serious, and never more so than in the show’s — and, some claim, this generation’s — anthem. Hair had “Aquarius,” Rent, “Seasons of Love.” When the cast did a brief medley of the Spring score at the Tonys, it was okay for them to sing about “The Bitch of Living” on TV. But when they came to the anthem, they muted its offensive words: “You can kiss your sorry a** goodbye,” they sang, because life is — the song’s title — “Totally F*****.”

An underlying reason people feared Spring might not tour well, I suspect, is that the original’s such a spare, incredibly tight show that the demands of touring might dilute it. There are no wasted moves, and often it blasts from 0 to 60 in an instant. Plus, the characters are sketchy and require top young talent to get their attitude, that fury, just right.

The production at the Balboa Theatre represents a dual shakedown cruise. The company’s beginning a national tour here, and the renovated theater’s having its first big musical tryout. Flying colors for both. The Balboa’s such a natural venue for this kind of event you wonder why it ever closed.

And the production rocks. Kyle Riabko, as the budding nihilist Melchior, and Blake Bashoff as Moritz (a mesa of brown hair rising from his scalp) head a cast with no weak links. Every move, whether singing out or stomping the floor hard, is absolutely in the moment.

On the technical side, Spring’s both then and now. Kevin Adams’s extraordinary lighting combines neon lines and circles with galaxies of blue, orange, and red stars. The music has rock and hip-hop roots. But the musicians play instruments more attuned to Wedekind’s era: string bass, cello, violin, and viola.

Director Michael Mayer bleachers some audience members on the sides of the stage. (Michael Greif used a similar approach to make his Rent more intimate.) Christine Jones’s scenic design’s also a hybrid. The box set with three red brick walls suggests today. Objects on the walls — a headless body in a casket, an angel’s wing — light up and tell parts of Wedekind’s original story. Among other things, the musical becomes a tour through a sad old museum.

Susan Hilferty’s Edwardian costumes — boys in four-button sport coats, girls in long, puffy-shouldered cottons — make the stage resemble a Harry Potter movie, in which heretofore asexual students encounter a mystery far greater than magic.

Spring Awakening, book and lyrics by Steven Sater, music by Duncan Sheik, based on the play by Frank Wedekind
Balboa Theatre, 854 Fourth Avenue, downtown
Directed by Michael Mayer; cast: Christy Altomare, Kyle Riabko, Blake Bashoff, Matt Schingledecker, Ben Moss, Andy Mientus, Gabrielle Garza, Kimiko Glenn, Steffi D, Sarah Hunt; scenic design, Christine Jones; costumer, Susan Hilferty; lighting, Kevin Adams; sound, Brian Ronan; music director, Jared Stein; choreographer, Bill T. Jones
Playing through August 31; Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Sunday at 6:00 p.m. Matinee Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and Sunday at 1:00 p.m. 619-570-1100.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Let the wine make itself

“Let’s get cracking. It’s time for racking!”
Next Article

“My favorite John Waters movie is…”

A quick dissertation on the correlation between organic food intake and jean skinniness
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close