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Almost like Backstreet Boys Live
by Edna Nelson
2009-02-10 09:39:07
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The best thing about Helsinki City Theater's ”Spring Awakening” was the first song done by the male cast. Most reviews about the performance are favorable but I'm of a different mind: the first half was boring except for the first hip-pumping dance performance by the male cast; and the second half might have been radical and provocative if it was being shown a little bit closer to the time it was set. This Tony-Award Winning musical has definitely left me wanting.

springlogo2_400 The themes around adolescence the show addresses are watered down by the irrelevance of the story lines presented in this not so funky rock musical. Though it is reputed to be radical, rebellious, provocative a friend of mine noted that everything seen in “Spring Awakening” can easily be found on the Internet with a few mouse clicks. The female roles are nearly completely undeveloped and almost limited to story of the lead girl and her mother. ”Spring Awakening” is  really about boys becoming men, while at the same time not being clear about what being a man really means. The female figures that childishly dance around are simple and even when the heavy drama of domestic violence enters the scene they are powerless to respond. The boys on the other hand are rebellious, nervous, inquisitive, and unusually expressive. In total the young male cast definitely out shined all the rest. I might have enjoyed ”Spring Awakening” if it was more about cute guys dancing and singing well, and less about trying to talk about issues.

”Spring Awakening”  is full of stories that would be be interesting to follow while only few them come to an end. The musical addresses gender, and sexuality issues that are relevant today yet does nothing to actively resolve them, there are characters presented that could be dynamic but instead are simply hints are personality. The plot is mapped around a bookish self-contained hero at the center of a chaotic world,  and he is nearly completely indifferent to or above it in some intellectual way. He does this, he does that, stands up for this one, screws up with that one, and has to be strong through the whole thing. The last song beckons our protagonist to continue in the face of hard matters, but the value instilled in this characters experience was lost on me. His rebellious intellectualism is over-rated and I mean really? Who needs to hear a musical about a straight, privileged, German rebel, with relative supportive parents and a good mind?

By the end of the musical I found myself wishing the writer Steven Sater had instead made his protagonist a minor character while emphasizing the more compelling experiences of the others. The biggest example of this is the single two-person sex scene in the musical: it almost seemed like a rape, and reading up on the Musicals difference from the play, it could have been.  The sex itself is entirely boring (missionary position with clothes on) and could have been more interesting if it was actually on one side or the other of consent. I would have rather seen a liberating or clear seen, but this one was just blurry leaving me wondering “What did they mean by that?” There are so many important issues that could be addressed through this musical, and it's failure to meet the task is what I'm really disappointed about. In a world where TV shows cover issues ranging from teen-pregnancy, racism, rape and suicide, to domestic violence and drug abuse in much more extensive ways ”Spring Awakening” just feels like it's trying to play catch-up.

I liked the cast though. The performance itself was loose and convincing. The young actors played as adolescents powerfully and I was surprised to see that many of them where in their 30's when looking at the program. The female choreography is at times boring and never sexy or jolting but the actresses pull it off well, at the throughout the show I never questioned the fact that that they were in fact adolescent girls dancing around on stage. The performances of the 2 main “Adult” actors are particularly funny, these older cast members take on many roles and transition impressively between them, changing from caring to cruel, rash and pensive almost seamlessly. Again, the male choreography is smooth, energetic and sexy while their voices are strong and convincing. ”Spring Awakening” was worth seeing, for that first song alone, it was almost like going to see the Backstreet Boys Live.

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