The Playgoer: Spring Awakening raves

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Spring Awakening raves

The Spring Awakening crew must be very happy the Times sent not Brantley, but Isherwood for the big review. A) Isherwood already wrote a thumbs-up for them the first time around this summer. And B) Brantley has not been too kind over the years to director Michael Mayer, especially when it comes to musicals.

Meanwhile, the Sun's Eric Grode wonders if it isn't "the best rock musical ever" and even the Post's old-timer Clive Barnes is ga-ga over it.

The ticket sales will definitely spike now. Let's see if that young audience comes out. Or if at least their parents take them.


Anonymous said...

I saw it and thought it was fantastic. Can't stop hearing the music!

Anonymous said...

I can't believe that Isherwood thinks only "scholars" will care that a rape has been transformed into a "consensual act." Leave it to a queen to fart that sentence out. Um, I think some women -- and men who respect women -- may have a problem with that too, whatever Isherwood or the other gay men who wrote, directed, and choreographed the show feel.

Anonymous said...

uh, "rape is hot" ("catchy" and "endearing" alias, btw) - homophobic much? why you think anyone being gay has anything to do with a creative decision in the process of preparing a musical is unusual to say the least. ok, not so much of a mystery. your obvious resentment to the gay contribution to great theater is obvious.

since you're so angry about their contribution, it's a (transparent) mystery in your interest in theater at all.

this is not a musical "about" rape that was diluted. it's about the many effects of adolescent maturity. something you might want to try a hand at.

Anonymous said...

wow. touchy reactions! i saw the show downtown and liked it a lot; haven't seen it on broadway. but i thought one of the best things about the original was precisely the ambiguity and confusion of melchior's seduction/date-rape of wendla. it was complex and disquieting and disturbing and thought-provoking. that much complexity and discomfort was apparently too much for uptown even for this show -- and that's not a function of the sexual orientation of anyone involved, but of the profit orientation.

Anonymous said...

Here is the Isherwood:

"“Spring Awakening” has changed in small ways and improved in large ones since it opened last summer Off Broadway at the Atlantic Theater Company. It has moved further away from the Wedekind play, but only scholars are likely to care that a key plot turn, a sex scene with the central female character, the pubescent Wendla Bergman (Lea Michele), has been thoroughly softened from confused ambiguity into a consensual act."

Wedekind wanted to explore the destructive force of sexuality. That's why he made it a rape. It's offensive enough to change it to "confused ambiguity" but to make it a "consensual act" is truly offensive. And it's perfectly legitimate to wonder if the fact that the creators of the show have no personal interest in female sexuality, and the dangers and difficulties of it, might have led to their decision to turn a rape into a seduction.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious about why the "confused ambiguity" offends you. As a feminist, a woman, a rape crisis hotline staffer back in the day, I found the downtown version to hit exactly the disturbing -- and yes,as typically experienced, confusing -- nature of date-rape (which often starts out as seduction.) That's part of the fucked-up sexuality the play is exposing. I find it hard to believe that the uptown version makes that somehow a nice, consensual scene, but I an assure you: the downtown version was scary and, I'm sorry to say, all too recognizable. I suspect the decision to change it had to do with being afraid to tilt the Bway audience too sharply, to keep them happy in their sympathy for Melchior. The actor playing Wendla -- and other women in the company -- could have spoken up.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, the "16 to 21" year old girls and women (as the mailers salaciously remind us) could have "spoken up" to the creative team of famous middle-aged artists.

In other words, it's THEIR fault. I imagine you were a fantastic rape counselor! And why do you find it "hard to believe that the uptown version" does what these critics say it does?

Anonymous said...

Hard to believe in the rhetorical sense - not doubting that they DID make that change, but hard to imagine the change since the original was so strong. (Like "I can't believe I ate the whole thing.")

No, not blaming the women in the slightest -- and changing a scene of a musical, however misguided, is not akin to rape, for God's sake. Get a grip. Just saying that the actors are not automatons ordered around by vicious gay men getting off on their misogyny. They do have some agency in this situation.

Anyway, I was genuinely interested in understanding why you found the downtown version offensive, but as you are more interested in insulting people than in exchanging ideas, I'm bowing out of this conversation.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Playgoer said...

I've deleted the previous comment to make clear that as moderator I reserve the right to put some limits on the conversation here. I rarely do, but I'm settling on this simple rule--NO PERSONAL ATTACKS ON OTHER COMMENTERS, PLEASE.

Especially when you don't even know the person!

By all means, pick apart and skewer their arguments. But I just don't want the fine comment section here to devolve into a personal quarrel that gets us off topic.

As always, I reserve the right to delete all comments that are off topic, or needlessly offensive.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I missed the downtown run, but I've seen it twice at the O'Neill, and I disagree with Ish. that the end of Act I depicts a entirely "consensual act;" it made me pretty uncomfortable, and I'm not squicked out easily. It's as likely as not that some changes have been made in the transfer (they strayed from Wedekind already with the ending), but for me the real problem with the ambiguity of Melchior and Wendla's coupling is in its resolution: that is, if it is a rape, there are no psychic repercussions for Wendla or punishments for Melchior (that are specifically to do with rape as opposed to plain ol' fornication), and we move on, and what to me feels really abusive is then wiped over with a helping of "We love each other and will make a new world with our baby! Except I, Wendla, die in a botched abortion! But I, Melky, will live on! Purple summer! Yeah!" And that has the unfortunate tendency of normalizing a deeply effed-up sexual dynamic that as Some Scholar said, is all too prevalent anyway.

The source play is clearly intended to disturb, and I think the musical update, while it has a lot going for it, also makes some missteps. Other than the above, its smirky, louche treatment of homosexuality is played as a joke with it own slightly abusive tang, rather than given any kind of stage legitimacy. And even Ilse, who also shows up to discuss the thrills and terrors of her sexy bohemian life with Moritz, is mostly played for a jokey counterpoint to his imminent death.

I very much enjoyed the production, but the more I think about it, the more troubled I am. If this show finds its audience (what I am generalizing as "the Rent audience"), I don't know that they're going to think through the material critically, which I beleive is what Wedekind was aiming at the first place. If only everyone was a brilliant and detatched as I am...when will they LEARN?

Anonymous said...

I saw both shows and found them both to be intense and confusing and extremely seductive. I think that the uptown version lost some of the intensity in the new venue but what remained constant in both portrayals was the raw agression --that everyone expressed --- I think that quality was present in the original play and was reflective of the times and culture that it was originally set where lack of information about sex and initmacy was the norm and this was dangerous to not have information. There was violence in all the relationships the gay and straight-- parental and teacher, incest, rape and assault was pervasive throughout. so to single out the rape/sex between the two main characters is only addressing part of the message. I understood melchiors survival less as the mysogynist wins, but more as the one who rebels, and challenges authority survives. The other interesting thing about this production is the music and how beautiful it is --this was also uncomfortable --especially in contrast with the content. I think the play and the musical are designed to be provocative and seductive and were supposed to leave us confused and dazed all at once. In doing so it created a parallel process between the characters and the audience. and I think it was very sucessful.

Geg said...

Hello there. This is my first post and would like to say that I am very glad to have found this site. I really enjoy reading it!

I saw the show at the Atlantic. What we came away with is that these kids were so in the dark about sex. (Even though Melchior seemed to know more than Wendla). Both feeling sexual attraction toward each other, Melchior just did not know to take things slow. We didn't really see it as a rape, we saw it as being inexperienced. And of course her reaction would be what it was seeing that she was a virgin. At first it did seem like a rape and we all winced. But after Thinking about it at intermission, we saw it a bit differently. I am interested in knowing what takes place at the top of Act II on Broadway as I hear it opens with them still having sex. I hope to see it on Broadway when in New York in April.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you can say that Spring Awakening should be glad the New York Times sent Isherwood and not Brantley. Brantley put it on his Top Ten list and went so far as to call it "the best musical of the year." Brantley's review would have been a love letter too, and to say otherwise diminishes the mastery of this wonderful and daring piece of theatre. Thank God it's on Broadway! Finally Broadway gets some credibility.

Playgoer said...

Fair enough, Anon. But, in fairness to me, I did post that before Brantley went public with that list. At the time, his views of the show were not know. And Isherwood's WERE, due to his positive review of the off-b'way run.