Author’s Note: Lately, I’ve been feeling nostalgic for Spring Awakening, so I thought I’d post up a review I’d written of the show’s final matinee on January 18th, 2009. This was not only memorable because it was its closing day/night, but also because it marked the first time I met some fellow Guilty Ones and experienced the show in onstage seating for the first time.
I wrote the following the minute I came home and didn’t stop until I got every thought and feeling down, finally posting it in the wee hours of the morning. Hope you enjoy!
|From left: Myself, Michelle, Becca, Lina & Emily
(If anyone remembers whose picture this originally is, please let me know so I can credit!)
Those You’ve Known
A Guilty One Remembers
There are very few times in one’s life where one feels that the Universe works itself out for you. Like, when that guy you were supposed to hang out with in the city ends up a no-show, saying later that he “spent 45 minutes finding the place.” Or, when you line up for student rush at Spring Awakening’s last ever matinee, only to find that not only is there student rush and standing room available for 27 bucks, but there is onstage seating available for 40 buckaroos?
Yes, my children, yours truly got to experience her second (yes, second) and final viewing of the beloved musical ONSTAGE. Talk about a “huzzah!” moment.
Before I start my review, I just want to quickly reflect on what this show has meant to me these last 2 ½ years. I first viewed Spring Awakening on May the 18th, 2007. That day, I had had the worst oral presentation in the history of oral presentations (note: do NOT, under any circumstances, substitute a Vitamin Water Energy Drink for a meal. Because you will get jittery…and FAIL.), and had needed something to boost my spirits. At the time, I had stayed with my aunt and uncle, and that night had been my cousin’s nursing school graduation, which I would not have been able to attend on account of my commute from the city – the ceremony was to be in Long Island, and by the time I’d be at my aunt’s house in Queens, they’d have been long gone by then. Not wanting to have to spend the evening alone in that big house, I decided to mosey over to the Eugene O’Neill Theatre on 49th and see Spring Awakening, which I’d contemplated on seeing sometime that week, anyway.
Long before my first viewing, I’d already bought the Original Broadway Cast Recording back in January of that year and been a member of the infamous forum, The Guilty Ones, for about a month at that point. And earlier that April, I’d attended the AOL Degrassi/Spring Awakening Verbal Mashup. So I was pretty much already somewhat familiar with the cast and in the Pre-Fangirl phase. By the time I exited the Eugene O’Neill that May night, I pretty much was blown away. Everything from the choreography, to the lighting, to the acting (most notably, that of John Gallagher, Jr.’s) had taken my breath away, and since then I was hooked.
Around that time, which was the middle of my freshman year of college, things hadn’t looked too good for me, schoolwise. I’d been coerced by my family into doing a prospective major that I had no interest in (that’d be nursing, natch) and was not holding up to anyone’s expectations, academically. It basically came to a point where it got me so down, that I pretty much did not want to be on Planet Earth anymore. It was that bad. When I saw Gallagher’s Moritz go through the same thing (and heartbreakingly so), I felt a weird mixture of comfort and connection like I never had with a show before. The parallels between my life and that of the characters in SA would soon become even more pronounced by the next year, in the Summer of ’07.
And so there it is.
While it was a mixture of the energetic performances of the actors, as well as the music, that had first gotten me into the show, it was more than that. The story, to me, was vital. I related to it more than I could ever imagine (or want, even), and it provided much comfort in my life – more than I could ever hope for in a show, and for that, I am truly grateful.
Okay. With that said, I’m going to start my review, before I start blubbering at my computer like an idiot.
— Spring Awakening Final Matinee – January the 18th, 2009 —
First of all, Let me just say that getting into the theatre was chaos. There were so many people. But, I managed to get ahold of an usher, since it was my first time to do Onstage Seating (lulz, I’m capitalizing it, just ‘cause it’s so Sought After~). She led me to a man with a red tie (from what I remember? Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong) standing sentry at the edge of the stage. I showed him my ticket stub and he led me to my seat (I got BB8 – I remember being on the rush line and literally praying to get at somewhere near BB6, which I’d heard was a good seat. Now that I think of it, I may have mixed it up with the seat I ended up with. You’ll see what I mean later).
So I sat down, feeling oh-so-very-cool that I got to sit there, right there, onstage. As others got situated with their seats in the Orchestra section and the Mezzanine, I took some time out to glance around the set, just taking every second I could to relish in it. I looked over the platform, onto which a tree is rendered and a lone chair stands with Wendla’s white dress draped over; I glanced over at the chalkboard by the wall, behind where the band would play Duncan Sheik’s beautiful music (on the chalkboard is a list of all the songs, etched in various handwriting). My eyes pored over the brick wall with Kevin Adams’ neon lighting, as well as the various light bulbs that would illuminate the stage in the latter half of the first act.
It didn’t quite hit me yet, at least not until the Ensemble cast members (Eryn Murman, Alice Lee, Morgan Karr, and Zach Reiner-Harris) came onstage to take their seats next to us at either side of the stage. The first to catch my eye was Eryn — who was doing her duty as Sneaky Ensemble Member and asking the usher where her seat was, and all. Her arm was linked with Gabe’s, I think, and Alice – who was doing the same on the opposite side of the stage – had hers linked with Zach’s. It was very cute, but I remember upon seeing Eryn, all smiley despite what would be the start of an emotional last matinee, that it had suddenly hit me with a ton of bricks that this was really happening. I don’t know why particularly with Eryn, but maybe it was because I had wanted to see her play Wendla for the longest time, after hearing so much great stuff about her – and I came to the realization that after tonight, I won’t get the chance.
So yes, at that point, I had a gut feeling that I was going to definitely cry at some point during the show. (And boy, did I ever.)
Shortly after that, the lights grew dim and the house manager (or whoever does those announcements) tells us to make sure our “cell phones are silenced, and candy unwrapped” – the audience laughed at the last part. Soon enough, the cast came out and sat at the remaining empty seats onstage, with Alexandra Socha (Wendla Bergmann) taking her spot on the chair. The audience claps and cheers for centuries, and I watch as Socha slightly smiles as she stares out into the audience.
Mama Who Bore Me/Scene One. What a beautiful and delicate way to start off the show, I must say. I have to give major props, for a second, to the lighting technicians – they managed to transition from the pre-show lighting to hazy light in such a subtle way. It’s something I would not have necessarily noticed had I not been sitting onstage, and I must say, it was breathtaking to experience, pulling me right in.
I must say that while I don’t find Socha’s voice to be as particularly strong or pure in sound as Lea Michele’s had been, her rendition of MWBM was stunning to hear, as well as her graceful take on Bill T. Jones’ choreography. She did a few things here that I thought were captivating to watch, such as slight sudden movements and angling her body so that it really did look like she were viewing herself in a mirror (which is what the choreography is supposed to convey). This was very different than what I remember Lea doing when I saw the show last, and it was a pleasant surprise to see. However, as much as I enjoyed her performance here, this was probably the only time I found myself really liking her choices in performing, and you’ll see what I mean.
Her scene afterwards with Christine Estabrook (Adult Women) was pretty much the start of Socha’s downward spiral for me in terms of her acting choices. I had to wince at some of her readings of the lines, and unfortunately it was like this for most of the rest of the show. I recalled something I think Cesca said somewhere (I think on LiveJournal?) about Socha’s interpretation of Wendla being so naïve to the point of being seeming dumb, and I certainly got that impression right away in this scene.
Estabrook, for her part, was magnificent, as usual. Having come back after a hiatus a few months ago (though, I hadn’t exactly been keeping track of how long she’d been gone, so if anyone can correct/confirm me on this, let me know), she’s slipped back into the roles, but not without adding a few things here and there. She’s certainly different this time around, and added a few interesting mannerisms and slight changes in her readings on some lines, and they totally worked, of course. So mucho props and love goes out to my girl Estabrook – if you are reading this, you are made of awesome.
Mama Who Bore Me (Reprise). EPIC STOMPAGE ALERT. Say it with me, now: “No one stomps like Ilse!Stomps.” Seriously. Well, to be fair, all the girls were pretty much bringing on the fierce here, as they should be when performing this song.
Midway through the song, I totally forgot that the boys get up from their seats and bring their chairs to the center of the stage, so when they got up, they did it so quickly that I jumped in my seat a little
and nearly shat Frisbees. Scared the heck outta me, yo.
Scene Two/All That’s Known. O HAY GLENN FLESHLER!ADULT MEN. I must say, he brings a different, but interesting approach to Herr Sonnenstich, as well as the rest of the Adult Men in the play. I miss my Stephen Spinella, but overall, Fleshler did well. This scene, in particular was well played.
I remember spying with my little eye Blake Daniel (Ernst Robel) twitching his nose at one point in the scene, hehe. I also marveled at the impossibility that both Hunter Parrish (Melchior Gabor) and Matt Doyle (Hanschen Rilow) could actually be more good looking in real life. Because, the truth is, they really are. Especially Matt, he’s so pretty to look at, with his Hanschen!Hair.
As for Hunter, I have to say that I’m surprised at how much I liked him as Melchior. Like Socha, his voice isn’t as strong, but he makes up for it by the way he sings – he has this way of elongating the notes, as if he just wants to take his own sweet time. This, at first, did not bode well for me in terms of singing ATK, as I’m used to Jonathan Groff’s more “angry” way of emoting it, and it kind of annoyed me that he did not particularly portray Melchior’s rebelliousness in his singing here. Despite this, I ended up loving Hunter’s voice – and overall performance – by the end of the show.
Bitch of Living. OMG GERARITZ (That’d be Gerard Canonico as Moritz Stiefel, natch). I’d been dying to see Geraritz since back in the days when he’d take over for Gallagher, and am so so so glad that I got to see him this final night, as a permanent lead. He fits the role perfectly and am so proud to see his progression from ensemble member to lead, all within the span of 2 years. He and Hunter have great chemistry, with them giving nuanced facial expressions in many scenes, including the one right before BOL.
I loved the boys in BOL, and in the scene leading up to it. I had forgotten how much like a unit they moved, and the boys today did so seamlessly. When those first few chords on the guitar came on, you can tell tell the boys were giving us a show to remember. The energy sky-rocketed with their stomps (yeh da boiz like da stompz too, lulz) and jumps, and it ended with the crowd cheering afterwards.
One thing I want to add here: Blake as Ernst is super cute and super funny. When he did his whole “God, my whole life’s like, a test” line in the song, he garnered a lot of laughs from the audience, and he did it in such a way that I found just so…endearing, if that’s a way to put it. Matt’s reading of the “We’ll huddle over the Homer, maybe do a little Achilles and Patroclus” line, along with Blake’s reaction was hilarious.
In the scene afterwards, with Herr Knockenbruch and Fraulein Knuppeldick, Estabrook did this really funny, kind of shudder at the “neurasthenic imbecile, Moritz Steifel?” line that was completely hilarious, as well.
Scene Three/My Junk. I must say that Caitlin Kinnunen is so cute, and her Thea, while totally miles away from that of the role Remy Zaken originated, was an interesting take, and I quite liked her performance. I felt some of her readings were a bit off, but not enough to totally detract from my liking her performance.
As for Emily Kinney as Anna, I quite liked her, as well. Though, at the “chrysanthemums” line, I have to admit, I missed Phoebe Strole (hey, no one says “chrysanthemums” quite like Phoebesus!).
OMG LOVE LOVE LOVE MATT’S HANSCHEN. It’s hard to explain, but he does it similar to Jonathan B. Wright, but at the same time, he did it slightly different. Nevertheless, he was so funny, and in the middle of the song, as the girls were dancing around him on the chair, I believe he did some facial expressions that came off as funny, because I remember the audience laughing at some point (I did not catch this in time, as my attention went to other actors).
Andrew Durand as Georg totally pwned as well – his scene with Fraulein Grossebustenhalter was hilarious, and I found his singing voice to be quite awesome, as well.
Scene Four/Touch Me. Again, great chemistry between Hunter and Gerard. I’m afraid I’m going to risk repeating myself in saying that, when watching this, I was so proud at how far Gerard has come, and how much he’s grown as an actor. A couple of the usual lines, such as the “I prayed like Christ in Gethsemane, ‘Please God, give me consumption and take these sticky dreams away from me” line, but I was most impressed by his reading of the “labia majora” line, because he’d done it in a way that seemed like he wasn’t going for the joke, or anything. Not that Gallagher did, but whereas Gallagher conveyed confusion, Gerard kind of did it in this skeptical, “what is this labia majora?” kind of way. I’m probably not explaining this properly, but that’s how I saw it.
“Touch Me” began with Emma Hunton’s (Ilse) entrance, walking along the stage and doing the choreography. I remember this as really striking me, because I remember reading somewhere on TGO that there is some significance as to why she walks on stage and does the choreography first; the fact that she is outcast as the only one of her peers to have experienced sex (and in quite a brutal fashion, might I add) definitely makes the entrance all the more haunting. I couldn’t keep my eyes off her, and the way Emma did the choreography so slowly and gracefully, with a look of both sadness and anguish, just…guhh. Enthralling.
Love the live arrangement of this song – especially during the climax, shortly after the “consume my wine, consume my mind” part. I think I’ve listened to the recording so much that I forgot that the orchestrations are different on stage. Again, love love love.
Also, was impressed by Andrew’s solos here, which are not easy to do, I’d imagine. Bravo, Durand.
Scene Five/Word of Your Body. I DO NOT LIKE SOCHA’S READINGS OF THESE LINES. Sorry to say, but she just portrays Wendla as this simplified country girl that isn’t curious and doesn’t have doubts about the world that surrounds her. I think the character of Wendla is much more complex than that, and I wish Socha had taken that into consideration.
The WOYB pas de deux was gorgeous to watch. The last time I’d seen the show, I sort of let my mind wander during this part, as WOYB is one of my least favorite songs. This time, though, I made sure to pay attention and take it all in, and just…wow. Just watching his hand creep slowly under her arm as they sit next to each other, with their fingers eventually interlacing, I thought that was played out in such a beautiful way, and to see it up close made it even more so. Guh, and that move where Melchior holds Wendla as she leans away, and then she turns to him as he slowly pulls her to her? Breathtaking.
Scene Six (“I Passed”). Played out well, and as usual, good chemistry between the boys.
Scene Seven/The Dark I Know Well. I was a little irked at some of Amanda Castanos’ readings of some of the lines here, as she says them a bit rushedly, with no long pauses or anything. It’s not that everything has to have long pauses, but with a scene like this, which is somewhat intense (in terms of what is being discussed), there needs to be some time given for the words to sink in. That was my only qualm relating to Martha.
I liked how the girls used the space in this scene; I don’t remember whether it was blocked the same way back when the OBC had done it, but it seemed slightly different from what I remember seeing. Anyway. I remember liking the way the girls (Emily, in particular) reacted when Martha shows them her bruised arm – they all sort of stared in shock and slowly backed away, fear and pity on their faces.
I realllly like Amanda’s rendition of TDIKW. And OMG EMMA HUNTON AS ILSE IS LOVE. She’s just so natural in her acting, and her singing voice is awesome, I really love her.
Oh, and Fleshler’s “Ilse, Ilse…storytime” line was kinda creepy. Which, in this case, is a good thing.
Scene Eight (“Beating Scene”). Again, just rushed readings by Socha. I am a big believer in sometimes letting silence do the work for you, especially in scenes like this. Play it out too fast, and it comes out comical.
I spotted Eryn sitting at the seats across the stage with this look, like “WHY IS SHE READING THOSE LINES LIKE THAT, I CAN READ THEM BETTER”, but in a genuinely confused way. I’m sure she wasn’t thinking that, but that’s kind of what it looked like. It made me, again, wish that I’d gotten to see Eryn!Wendla.
Despite my qualms with Socha, I thought the last few minutes – particularly the physical scuffle, during which Melchior shoves her onto the ground violently, were played out pretty realistically.
Scene Nine. Again, thought it was interesting how different Fleshler’s approach to Herr Steifel was as opposed to Spinella’s approach. Pretty intense scene as usual, with Gerard moving into “And Then There Were None” pretty quickly afterward.
And Then There Were None. Nothing done too different here, except that it ended with Gerard sort of raising his arms in a very High School Musical-ish manner, and I thought that was awkward. Just a bit, though.
Mirror Blue Night/Hayloft Scene/I Believe. Quite possibly my favorite moment in the play, other than “Don’t Do Sadness”/”Blue Wind”. My heart skipped a little beat when I saw the boys attaching the ropes to the platform, and when Hunter entered, making his way toward the platform with such an anguished look on his face, I knew right then that from then on the waterworks would soon come.
And when Hunter started doing the choreography, and the platform lifted, with the blue light bulbs descending so beautifully around him, I couldn’t help but think, “This is why I love this show; this is why I love theatre.” It was so captivating and gorgeous to witness when you’re sitting onstage, because you’re right there in the thick of it as all this beautiful lighting unfolds around you. No words can describe the overall energy at that point; with the boys delicately miming Bill T. Jones’ choreography, and Hunter doing the same on the raised platform, as it swung softly back and forth, and the violin beautifully singing its vibrato in the background, it’s just, guhhh. Your heart just leaps and you’re there with them.
Socha’s entrance could have been a little better – she didn’t rush as much as before, but some of her lines irked me once again. Once she entered the hayloft, however, I suppose she somehow heard my thoughts on silence, because the whole scene between her and Hunter were played out carefully, and beautifully, at that. I absolutely loved Hunter here, and I loved the silences between them…with the swing gracefully swinging back and forth, it felt like the scene was telling us that there’s a lot hanging in the balance, and the tension from the silence totally played that up.
Then, before I knew it, it was WHOA SOCHA’S BOOBS AND WOW, HUNTER HAS A CUTE BUTT. (You can pretty much get a view of everything during the Hayloft scene from where I sat. O HAY THNX, BB8?)
‘Kay, just going to include a little ditty on how I couldn’t: (a) cut through to Exit 8 to get to the lockers (where the people sitting onstage put away their stuff), or (b) go to the bathroom.
Lemme just say, the latter? ABSOLUTE MAYHEM. The line stretched all the way to the second floor. I was all, “Screw this,” to the girl standing in front of me on line, “I’m goin’ back to my seat.”
Anyway. That’s my little rant. Here’s act two!
Scene One/The Guilty Ones. Hearing it live the second time around, TGO (the song, not the forum, haha) sounded much more hauntingly beautiful than what I remember and usually hear on the recording. I love how the characters gather around like a choir, Melchior and Wendla as start kissing passionately, with Fleshler as Father Kaulbach recites a sermon behind them. In a weird way, I thought it was powerful.
Scene Two/Don’t Do Sadness/Blue Wind. “Enough! Enough!” I loved how when Gerard entered, he just grabbed the mic stand – which was standing right in front of where the band was – and just leaned it down towards the audience and began the song. SO BADASS. His vocals were sooo on here, he sounded sooo good. And that’s saying a lot coming from me, because this is my favorite song on the soundtrack.
Emma’s entrance: ugh, just so perfectly Ilse. The way she did it was sort of like a slightly drunk-/high-on-life, carefree kind of Ilse, but with a lot more going on underneath. Love her voice. I think midway through the song is when I started to get teary-eyed (uh-ohs). When Gerard resumed singing, Emma had this look of pain on her face, and when the band kicked in for the song’s finale, she turned to them with this pained confusion, as if they were in on it, too, and guhhh. EMMA WHUT YOU DO TO MEH.
The exchange before she leaves is absolutely heartbreaking, and at the part where he says, “Goodnight, Ilse” and she replies, “Goodnight?” her voice had so much disappointment laden in it that my lip started quivering, and that was the end of it. I pretty much started silently sobbing as she said the “trash heap” line, with the same pain on her face, and left; it pretty much stayed that way throughout Gerard’s “I’ll Tell Them All” scene.
Scene Three/Left Behind. Tears, tears and more tears. Seriously. And what wasn’t making it any better was the beautiful way Hunter was singing. GUH HUNTER WHUT YOU DO TO MEH.
Everything played out as usual from what I can remember (I was wiping da tearz off my face for a good portion of this scene), but what I do remember was when it got to the part where Moritz’s father had to put his flowers in the grave, ‘cause Fleshler was INTENSE.
Scene Four/Totally Fucked. Um, how about TOTALLY ROCKIN’? Everyone was so on – like I said in BOL, it was like they really were putting on a show for us, one last great big sendoff into the Great Big Great White Way Sky (luls, sorry if that doesn’t make sense, it’s like 1 in the morning).
I was a bit disappointed at Fleshler’s “All roads end in you” line, but his “YOUUUU!” on the “precisely stated questions” line made up for it, so yeah. Still, Fleshler’s “YOUUU” is Spinella’s “YOUUU”’s bitch. Yehhhhr.
Anyway. I have to make a comment about Blake Daniel’s TF pose at the part where they line up in the back. It was sooo cute, kind of like a Deep Knee Bend on one leg, with the other leg extended to the back, it was awesome. And his pose in the end looked like a power ranger, it was so cute. Aw, I love Blake Daniel.
Oh! And Zach Reiner-Harris totally climbed that backboard thing that’s set up behind the stage seats and TOTES SANG TO ME. I smiled at him, and then remembered that I might have Bad Sbarro’s Breath. So I closed my mouth.
Looooong applause here, and standing ovation among the orchestra seats. It lasted like an age, it was so long!
Scene Five/Word of Your Body (Reprise). UM WE NEED S’MORE MATT AND BLAKE IN OUR LIVES, KTHNX. They were sooooo hilarious! I loved them as Hanschen and Ernst…they had such good chemistry, and when they first kissed, they garnered a whole lotta catcalls from the crowd, it was awesome.
Scene Six/Whispering. Again, Socha’s naïve Wendla bothered me a bit, but it worked a little in her favor, as the audience laughed at the “but I’m not married” line. Her rendition of “Whispering” was beautiful, though. Once again, quite haunting.
INCREDIBLE ACTING BY ESTABROOK HERE. Case in point: at one point in “Whispering,” she takes Melchior’s letter and gently covers her tear-stained face with it, clearly in deep anguish. Zomg Luv u, grl.
Scene Seven (“Reformatory” Scene). MATT DOYLE IS SERIOUSLY UNDERRATED. He’s soooo good, such a shapeshifter in terms of character. Line delivery is awesome here, as usual.
Oh, and did everyone always know that what the reformatory boys were betting their money on was on like, who would jack off first or something? ‘Cause I totally did not know that, so when I saw them all reaching in their pants, I was all like, WHOA, WAIT A SEC, SON. WUTCHU DOIN’ THERE. DON’T DO THAT.
I totally forgot how quickly the action goes on during the transitions here, and I was trying my best to give attention to everything, but I ended up missing something. So yeah, don’t know what else to really write here.
Scene Eight. Again, no one says “Poor Wendla” quite like Phoebe Strole. Sorry, Emily.
Scene Nine/Those You’ve Known. SO WELL-ACTED BY HUNTER. He’s also quite underrated. I think he played this scene out much more naturally than Groff ever did. I also love that when Moritz and Wendla are risen from their graves and sing to him, he doesn’t acknowledge them as if they’re there, like Groff did. Ugh, SUCH a good scene. I pretty much teared-up here, because it was so beautiful. Especially when Hunter cries out right before Moritz rises up – it was soooo believable, and you felt his pain.
Song of Purple Summer. Yeah, I think when I saw Emma right as the lights went back up again, I knew I would lose it. She sang it in almost the same way as in that video where she cried singing it at one of the holiday concerts they had, and just, guhhh. I looked across the stage at the other Onstage Seaters, and THEY WERE ALL IN HYSTERICS, OMG. Just bawling their eyes out. It was here that I came to realize just how much this show has meant to so many people, and just how much of a connection others like me have had with this show. It warmed my heart and yet saddened me at the same time. HEART-RENDERING.
By the time they all took their places on the stage, and it came up to the part of the song where the band stops and you hear their harmonies, I PRETTY MUCH WENT MENTAL. Seriously, tears were dripping from ducts I didn’t even know existed, I was crying so much! By the end of the song, I don’t even remember the looks on other people’s faces, ‘CAUSE I WAS TOO BUSY WIPING MINE.
20 cast members. 7 band members. 3 bows. 1 standing ovation. On the third bow, I took one last glance at the cast from behind, all lined up along the edge of the stage, with the whole theatre standing and cheering and clapping their frostbitten hands off (I did too, and while I was clapping so hard that it hurt, every clap was worth it), and I just started crying again, thinking that this would be the last time I’d see a sight as beautiful as that associated with this awesome musical.
Thank you, Spring Awakening.
December 10, 2006 – January 18, 2009