Balboa Theater- San Diego, CA 8/20/08
I hadn't seen Spring Awakening before, save the stunning performance by the OBC on the Tonys. I bought the cast recording as soon as it was available, so I was really familiar with the songs from the show...
The Balboa Theatre seems to be a good fit for the set. It's just the right size for a show like Spring Awakening, and as it's the 1st touring Broadway show to put up stakes there, it'll be interesting to see what else could possibly play here.
Part of the audience sits on stage just to the left and right, making them a passive yet visual part of the action. The cast, when not performing, all sit among them. This deliberate break in reality serves as a constant reminder to the audience that they are watching a play, and the result is a kind of honesty in the actors' performances you wouldn't normally see in a 'typical' Broadway production.
The show is well-cast, with both Melchior and Moritz joining the show from the Broadway production. The actors are all very believable, unlike the 30-playing-16 actors you might see in Grease. When the actors speak, they speak as people would in a play, but when they sing, they ROCK OUT. Hand-held mics appear from stands and cleverly hidden inside costumes, furthering the development of characters who act outwardly conservative but long to release their inner rock star. Vocally the show is strong, and in ensemble numbers the harmony of the entire cast really shines. Everyone's voices suit the rock-pop score, and it wouldn't be a far stretch to see any one of these actors front a rock band someday!
Much has been made of the 'sexual content' of the show but I never felt it gratuitous. It's fairly in its representation of the hormonally-charged adolescent years, something most of us can relate to (even though trying to get people to admit it is an exercise in futility). The couple sitting next to me left and didn't come back for the second act, apparently brutally honest depictions of young passion were too much for them.
The lighting was dead-on, likewise the sound. The lighting, a mix of traditional theatrical lighting and Mark Rothko-meets-Japanese Pop serves as a vehicle to enhance the tensions and joys throughout the production. It transitions shockingly from subdued oranges and ambers in book sections to full-out rock-n-roll in mere moments, but it never feels out of place. The band members and ensemble mixes could use a litle bit of enhancement, especially in numbers like 'Totally F**ked' and 'Those You've Known', where the leads tended to overpower even the band. Otherwise everything sounded great, with everything perfectly in balance.
Did Spring Awakening really deserve as many Tony Awards as it got? In short, yes. Even though I abhor Duncan Sheik's albums, he and Steven Sater really hit the nail on the head with Spring Awakening.