Spring Awakening

Spring Awakening now comes with the strongest of recommendations.

This musical manipulates what we know as traditional musical theater to tell a real story, with literally nothing held back. While the family behind me rushed their preteen daughters out the door before the first act had ended, I stayed to the end and have seldom found anything so enthralling.

A saleswoman roamed the aisles during intermission hawking CDs of the soundtrack, but this wasn’t the sort of catchy score I’d want to take home. More like the instrumentation underlying a motion picture, I considered the music merely a backdrop to the story: a way of conveying the necessary level of emotion.

And the story… I saw on stage simultaneously myself and everyone I knew in high school. While women may identify less strongly with a story principally about adolescent boys, Martha and Ilsa’s interlude was painfully moving, and the central plot surrounding Wendela is universal.

I discovered this show first through Kimiko Glenn, whom I liked before and like now. Steffi D, of Canadian Idol fame, wonderfully portrayed Ilsa, and Kyle Riabko, reprising his Melchior from Broadway, won me over entirely. But complete credit for the show’s hardest emotional pull goes to Christy Altomere as Wendela.

I want into the theatre knowing little more than that this musical has some graphic moments, including the simulated sex that drove that preteen family from the theatre, but left understanding parenthood, adolescence, and the compelling power of a well-told story about first love.

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