The question of where babies come from opens this daring musical that won eight Tony Awards. And it’s not posed by a pre-teen, but by teenage Wendla, who, like many of her schoolmates, is reaching adulthood in ignorance in a repressive late-19th century German province. Spring Awakening, as the name alludes, is about the youths’ explosive self discovery: sexuality, societal pressures, bureaucratic unfairness, child abuse and, lo, hope. Add a rock-&-roll score by late-’90s music-icon Duncan Sheik, and it’s no surprise that Spring Awakening is one of the few Broadway soundtracks that carries a “parental advisory” label.
Songs like “Mama Who Bore Me,” “All That’s Known” and “The Bitch of Living” aid in weaving the story’s theme together, while “The Guilty Ones” builds upon the climax after protagonists Melchior and Wendla (played by Sarah Stevens and Trey Gerrald, pictured) hook up, which has dreadful consequences. Other characters—like Melchior’s best friend, Moritz, and their mutual friend Ilse—draw the audience into this tragic world, spinning viewers on an emotional roller coaster.
Spring Awakening, which originally opened on Broadway in 1996, was adapted from a controversial 1891 German play by Frank Wedekind. However, the theme remains poignant and racy 120 years later. In national reviews of this touring production, critics making mention of a few audience members leaving after Act I because of the production’s provocative, if not demanding content—so fair warning to those of delicate sensibilities. But those ready for a challenge—and that’s what theater does when it’s at its best— surely will be rewarded.