Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Word of Your Body

Show: Spring Awakening
Venue: Eugene O'Neill Theatre
Date: Saturday 22, 2007

One of my friends from San Francisco... well, actually she's in San Diego now, but we both went to elementary school in SF... but anyway, she decided to come visit me before her quarter started. One of the things she really wanted to do was to see Spring Awakening.

I'd heard a lot about Spring Awakening, but at the same time, I knew practically nothing about it. I knew that it'd practically swept the Tonys, winning a total of eight, and I knew that there was on stage nudity, and I knew that you could get on stage seating if you wanted. Oh, I also knew that Duncan Sheik wrote the music. But anything else? Nothing.

So we went to go see the Saturday matinee. A few days earlier, Amy had informed me that Jonathan Groff (who plays Melchior) would not be performing and that Matt Doyle would be playing the role in his place. This, naturally, meant absolutely nothing to me at the time.

The theatre darkened, and on the lone chair in the middle of the stage stood a girl (Lea Michele). The music slowly started and the theatre was filled with Lea's lovely voice singing "Mama Who Bore Me."

At times, I felt the transition to the more contemporary music was jarring. (The musical itself is set in rural Germany circa 1890s) There were times where it worked really well ("And Then There Were None", "Totally Fucked") but other times where it didn't work so well ("Mama Who Bore Me (Reprise)"). Overall though, the juxtaposition of the contemporary music with the older setting definitely proved that issues that plagued the adolescents then are still very much relevant today. That, and the music was really good.

John Gallagher, Jr. who won the Tony for Best Featured Actor was absolutely fantastic in his role as Moritz. I think the character of Moritz himself sorta steals the show from its main protagonist, Melchior. And why wouldn't he? He has some of the best lines and John has this amazingly infectious energy that makes you sympathize and basically fall in love with his character. I was very impressed with his performance (He's only 23!!!). The whole time I was watching, all I could think was how he so completely deserved his Tony.

Matt Doyle gave a surprisingly fantastic rendition as Melchior. I'm often times skeptical of understudies, especially understudies of lead roles in big musicals. Granted, I've never watched or heard Jonathan Groff perform the role of Melchior, but good God, Matt Doyle was good. Melchior is a character who could easily be disliked for many reasons, but Matt played it so well. The final scenes were absolutely heartbreaking. One of the best parts of the musical was "Left Behind." The song and the placement of it are enough to get anyone going, but Matt performed the song with such tenderness, emotion, and anger (odd combination, I know, but if you've seen the musical, you know what I'm talking about) it gave that scene a completely new dimension. It was the closest I've come to crying in any musical.

The show has a lot of elements that are definitely different about it. The set is almost completely bare. All the adults are played by two people. (That was sorta confusing in the beginning... for a while, I was wondering why Wendla's mother was also the piano teacher and also the headmistress.) And definitely one of the most different things about it is the choreography. The choreography is... weird. To me, at least. There was a lot of interpretative dancing going on, and that kinda weirded me out. Not my cup of tea, I guess.

The second act was more powerful emotionally and had some of the better songs. The second act was where it all really came together for me. It was definitely darker... but it did have this one bright spot of hilarity - what Amy and I have come to call the seduction scene. Ernst and Hanschen are sitting together, and Ernst cheerfully dreams of being a country pastor and living in a small house with his apple cheeked wife... that is until Hanschen kisses him. Jonathan B. Wright was hilarious as the very gay Hanschen, and Blake Daniel was so endearing as the naive Ernst.

The show was great, and it seemed the entire audience agreed. When the curtains fell (metaphorically speaking... there weren't any actual curtains), everyone jumped out of their seats and gave the company a rousing ovation. For about five minutes. They came back two more times for two more bows. And yes, it was that good.

As good as the show was, waiting afterward at the stage door was almost just as fun. It was actually my first time. For all the shows I've seen, I'd never before waited afterward. Weird, eh? Well, this was actually really fun. Amy collected autographs and I took pictures.

We first talked to Blake Daniel who was taller up close than he looked on stage. I duly informed Blake that Amy flew all the way from California to see this show. Blake, with interest, asked what part of California. Upon hearing her answer, he replied, "I'm from Orange County." Yes! we were surprised. However, neither of us is really from SoCal, so the conversation sort of just died there.

Sometime during that, the door opened, and we heard very, very loud girly shrieks. So I knew: John Gallagher Jr. had just come out. Shortly thereafter, the door opened again, and another loud - though less shrill - round of shrieks. And so I knew: Matt Doyle had just come out.

It was a while before they made it through the throng of adoring fans. Matt made it before John did. (Totally on a first name basis with them, in case you couldn't tell.) As Matt was signing Amy's program, I once again pulled the California card. "Oh really?" he asked. "What part?" When we informed him we were from the Bay Area, he said, "I'm from Marin." Whodathunk? Everyone's from freaking California. He was super nice and super sweet, though very different than I might have guessed he would be... in a good way.

And eventually, John made his way to us. By this time, the crowd had thinned considerably. John was much more outgoing and comfortable with talking to us (more used to it, I suppose), and was very kind and charming. I (once again again) told John that Amy flew in that morning, and he was astounded. When I remarked, "I've never been in the presence of a Tony award winner before," he responded, "Oh yeah, I keep forgetting I won that!" Later, he thanked Amy for flying all the way in, and I cut in and said, "Thank you for being awesome!" He seemed genuinely surprised and pleased and responded, "Thank you!"

Everyone was really nice and obliging. It was nice to see that they hadn't been really affected by their stardom yet. Amy got pictures with just about everyone who came out: Blake, Brian Charles Johnson, Lilli Cooper, Matt, and John. I got two pictures - one with Matt and one with John. Unfortunately, I look completely disgusting in both since it randomly decided to absolutely pour right before we got into the theatre. Result: my hair was gross. Oh well. I shall cherish those pictures regardless.

To sum up: It was a great time! Not only did I see a great show, but I got to inform my friend I got a picture with John Gallagher Jr, much to her envy.

Go see it! It didn't win eight Tonys for nothing, you know.

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