Sunday, October 17, 2010

- Theater Review - Spring Awakening

Teen angst and raging hormones took center stage at the Peoria Civic Center Theater Saturday night, as "Spring Awakening" made its Peoria debut.

I first saw this play on Broadway in 2008 and I was blown away by its high-energy, in-your-face treatment of an age old theme.
That theme is the awakening of the adolescent body, and all the anxieties and insecurities that often follow.
These insecurities are compounded by adults who refuse to explain sexuality, or who treat sex as evil, dirty, and something to be ashamed of and suppressed.

The play takes place in 1890's Germany in a small provincial village.  Melchior is an intelligent and free thinking young man at an all-male school. 
He befriends and helps the nervous Moritz, who struggles with his studies and fears the failure that will disappoint his controlling father. 
Melchior is seduced by the desires he experiences for the young and beautiful Wendla. 
Wendla is an extremely sheltered girl who begs her mother tell her where babies come from.  When her mother fails her, she seeks the experiences that she barely understands from Melchior.
The three are set on a path to tragedy, with only one whose spring awakening leads to "Purple Summer".

All of the adult roles are played by two actors (one male, one female).  This is a very effective device, and the actors did a spectacular job.

This show features simulated intercourse, partial nudity, simulated masturbation, and songs with titles like "Totally Fucked" and "The Bitch of Living".

Needless to say, I wondered how this would play in conservative Peoria.

To my surprise, the audience responded in-kind to this high-energy musical.  Indeed, the biggest and longest lasting ovation was for the song "Totally Fucked".

Do I have a distorted view of Peoria's provincialism?   Perhaps.

The Civic Center was only willing to take a chance on a single performance, so I can't tell you to rush out and see the next performance here.  (You can catch it at Sangamon Auditorium in Springfield on November 14th)

But I will say that if you missed this, you missed what may well turn out to be the theatrical event of the Peoria theater season.


Anonymous said...

Did this incarnation live up to its Broadway counterpart? The original was amazing, and I've often been let down by the "NETworks Productions" touring casts.

Paul R Day said...

I would say close but not quite at the same level as the Broadway production.
Having said that, I also have to admit that perhaps the excitement of NYC theater colors that perception. Broadway is universally recognized as the epicenter of American theater and it so exciting to see the current hot ticket in those grand old theaters, that maybe the experience itself makes thing seem better than they are to a Midwesterner in the big city. :)