Here's one that had a lot to live up to: The musical of Spring Awakening
comes with tons of five-star reviews, a West End transfer announced today, and loads of people on "the internet" going apeshit about it, so I'd been hugely looking forward to it. Luckily it didn't disappoint. Obviously a story about late 19th/early 20th century German teenagers discovering their sexualities, being abused and committing suicide doesn't scream out for a musical adaptation, but the new UK production of this Broadway hit makes it work. It helps that for the most part the cast actually look
like teenagers - the girls in their awful dresses and pigtails look especially young, so it's a bit of a surprise when they open their mouths and an adult singing voice comes out.
The central characters are Melchior, the too-cool-for-his-own-good intellectual, his girlfriend Wendla, dangerously naive after her mother's shielded her from the facts of life, and Moritz, the school clown whose failures seem to be more down to the teachers taking a dislike to him than from any lack of ability on his own part. There's subplots, in a way, of two girls whose fathers abuse them, and two boys realising they're in love with each other, but they're more like snapshots of the lives surrounding the protagonists, and the whole thing is very episodic. It's carried along though by great performances and a huge deal of energy from the young cast in Michael Mayer's production, performing Duncan Sheik's catchy pop-rock tunes. The show's quite unashamedly melodramatic but tongue-in-cheek; the songs are sung into handheld mikes as if at a concert, but they're clearly an affectation as the performers also have radio mikes. It's raucous and very funny, but at its darker moments it had both Vanessa and the woman sitting to my left dabbing their eyes.
The whole cast are great: For me the star was the very cute Iwan Rheon as Moritz, very funny and touching; ridiculously pretty is Jamie Blackley (in the unlikely event that anyone saw Apparitions
on BBC1 last year, he played the Muslim boy who had visions of the Virgin Mary) as one of the gay boys - he and Harry McEntire have a hilarious scene in the reprise of "The Word of Your Body" where they give in to their feelings for each other. Charlotte Wakefield as Wendla is very strong although her slight resemblance to Emma Watson made it a bit weird when she got one of her baps out. And Aneurin Barnard ably takes the lead as Melchior (vanessaw
fancied him; for me the combination of a slight resemblance to Elijah Wood, curly hair and high trousers with braces was a bit too Mr Frodo to get too excited about, although he gets his arse out and it's perfectly watchable.) All the adult parts are played by Sian Thomas and Richard Cordery, in the same clothes and the same performance throughout, giving a simple but effective slant to the idea that the teenagers see all the adults as a single mass of authority figures. "Totally Fucked" was, perhaps unsurprisingly, the song that got the biggest response. STANDING OVATION WATCH:
Second one this year, and much deserved. I'd say this is the best musical I've seen since Avenue Q
. Both Vanessa and I were already thinking of downloading the soundtrack by the interval.Spring Awakening
by Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik, based on the play by Frank Wedekind, is booking until the 14th of March at the Lyric Hammersmith, before transferring to the Novello Theatre.