A Shadow Passed: Remembering SPRING AWAKENING

On January 18th, 2009 — a year ago today — I witnessed the closing of what was quite possibly the most definitive (and life-changing, among others) show of my generation: Spring Awakening. Based upon the original German Fruhlings Erwachenby influential playwright Frank Wedekind, driven with a pulsating and haunting score by Duncan Sheik, with book and lyrics by Steven Sater, the pop/rock musical bursted onto the Great White Way and became a phenomenon. Originally produced for the stage at Off-Broadway venue The Atlantic Theatre Company, it made its Broadway transfer on December 16th, 2006 — to critical acclaim. It garnered 8 Tony Awards in 2007, including Best Featured Actor in a Musical (John Gallagher, Jr.) andBest Musical. Since its closing, it has spawned various productions worldwide — Vienna, Toronto, Budapest, and London’s West End, to name a few — and just ended the second leg of its North American Tour.

Spring Awakening tells the story of young teenagers in 1890s rural Germany coming to terms with the “awakening” of their pre-pubescent bodies and sexual desires, and the heavy consequences that result from them. In the midst of it all are Melchior Gabor (Taking Woodstock’s Jonathan Groff), a scholarly rebel who starts to question authority; Wendla Bergmann (Glee’s Lea Michele), who starts the show with questions of her own about her ever-changing body; and Moritz Steifel (American Idiot: The Musical’s John Gallagher, Jr.), whose own fears of questioning lead him to crumble under the immense pressures of society.

It’s hard to tell you how much this show meant to me during its 888-performance run (that’s including previews), but as I have said many times, it had touched me (pun fully intended, natch) in a way that no other show had; it was the first Original Broadway Cast I’d experienced firsthand and the first time I felt my life paralleled the characters’. It helped me get through a troubling time in school, and in life. Not only that, it also re-kindled my love for theatre — not that it had ever gone away, but to have witnessed this piece was, to me, akin to a religious experience, as silly as it sounds. From Kevin Adams’ (Passing Strange) exquisite lighting, to Kim Grigsby’s soulful musical arrangement, to Michael Mayer’s (A Home At the End of the World) beautiful direction; Spring Awakening shot through my veins, giving me a visceral jolt that to this day cannot be shaken off. Not that I’d want to — to use Edward Cullen’s words, Awakening was like my own “brand of heroin.”

I am forever grateful that I got to see this show –my first time was on May 16, 2007, the 8pm evening show. The second was January 18, 2009 — a year ago.I remember going in, excited and anxious and sad, all at once. I was a wreck, sobbing perhaps midway through. This show has given me so many memories, both good and bad, and to have given it a proper farewell — in onstage seating, no less — was the least I could do in return.

All shall know the wonder of purple summer…

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