The Playgoer: The New Spring Awakening Ads

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Friday, May 02, 2008

The New Spring Awakening Ads

As the musical Spring Awakening gradually morphs from edgy downtown show made good to bona fide Broadway "long run" industry, note the shifting marketing strategies to start reaching audiences of more conventional tastes:

For every generation there is a story of young love against all odds, a story of longing and wanting that haunts us forever. For this generation it's SPRING AWAKENING, the ground-breaking, heart-breaking musical that has rocked the theatre world to its core. And now this timeless love story, told by a soulful and exuberant cast has Broadway falling in love again.
What, not "confused deadly young lust against all odds"? That didn't test well?

Wait, then there's this copy that ran in the print edition of last Sunday's Times Arts & Leisure with a photo of a dreamy Wendla leaning on Melchior's shoulder:
There's a reason you never forget your first love.
Didn't wanna go with "never forget your first rape," eh?

Oh sorry, I forgot. There is no rape in the musical. Never mind.

Photo above is typical of the new ads. Note it's her hand moving on him, it's she seemingly initiating the kiss. He's passive.

Check the end of Wedekind's Act II, scene iv and you'll find something quite different:

Wendla - - Nicht küssen, Melchior! - Nicht küssen!

Melchior - Dein Herz - hör' ich schlagen -

Wendla - Man liebt sich - wenn man küßt - - - - - - - Nicht, nicht! - - -

Melchior O glaub mir, es gibt keine Liebe! Alles Eigennutz, alles Egoismus!* - Ich liebe dich so wenig, wie du mich liebst.

Wendla - Nicht! - - - Nicht, Melchior! - -

Melchior - - - Wendla!

Wendla O Melchior! - - - - - - - - - nicht - - nicht - -
Even if you don't know German, you get the idea.

(Sorry, it's the only full text I could find online.)

*For the record, this sentence translates as: "O believe me, there is no love. All selfishness, all egoism!" Too Nietzschean for a Duncan Sheik song?

I know we've debated here before the right of the musicals' creators to make their own art of this. I get that. And fair to say this further "mainstreaming" of the story is the handiwork of the advertisers.

Still, just sayin'...


Anonymous said...

So you've acknowledged Sater/Sheik/Mayer's right to adapt the Wedekind story as they saw fit, yet seem to blame them for making the sex consensual in the musical. Does it surprise you that a story where the protagonist is a rapist would alienate most mainstream audiences? This is Broadway after all. Be realistic. How long do you think the original Wedekind story would have lasted on Broadway?

Be thankful that Sater and Sheik were able to bring this story to the mainstream in the first place. Because of the musical, hundreds of people have since read the original..Do you really think that Franzen's crappy new translation would have been greenlit had it not been for the success of the musical? Sater et all has done a good job of being faithful to the gut wrenching honesty and anarchistic tendencies of the original, but as he's always said, this adaptation is his own, and should really be viewed as a piece of art on its own merits. In his version, Melchoir and Wendla genuinely have feelings for each other. What's so wrong with that?

Playgoer said...

Well I'm torn, maybe. But I do think it needs to keep being pointed out how watered down the musical is.

In this case, though, it's not even Sater & Sheik I'm faulting. This advertising campaign just takes it to a different and much worse level in minimizing the complicated emotions even the musial acknowledges.

Anonymous said...

If you not only change but totally DESTROY THE MEANING OF THE ORIGINAL why would you use the title and the names of the characters???????

Two Hours Traffic said...

I've just found your blog, and the entries on Spring Awakening are quite fascinating. I knew and loved the original play long before the musical came out. The over-hype of the musical only resulted in my disappointment when I finally saw it.
I felt the changes they made to the plot really took the punch and the very point out of Wedekind's original story.
I did think the score was pretty damn good, and it was exciting to have that sort of fresh sound on Broadway. But ultimately the production for me was marred by some of its poor scripting and direction.