No, this isn’t 21st-century Utah County. This is 18th-century Germany, as told by the alternative rock musical Spring Awakening.
The musical opens up with a teenager, Wendla Bergmann (Erica Renee Smith), reminiscing in song with “Mama Who Bore Me,” about how she is kept in the dark about the realities of becoming a woman. She touches her breasts but takes her hands quickly away, which tells the audience exactly what we are getting in to. This sexual curiosity isn’t reserved for the girls and their changing bodies who are singing in dramatic unity, “Mama Who Bore Me (reprise),” but stems to the boys of the village as well. Inside the strict environment of their school reciting Latin lines is when the nervous Moritz Stiefel (Brock Dalgleish) stumbles on his enunciation. Melchior Gabor (Cody Jensen), a rebellious and free-minded peer, comes to his aid only to be stifled in his push-back by the hard-nosed headmaster (Jim Dale, who also plays all adult males in the show). The audience is guided through these teens’ lives as they learn about themselves and how to love those around them.
The production is about the coming-of-age of a group of teenagers who are stunted in their sexual growth, so they resort to their peers’ knowledge to understand their bodies and desires. Searching for answers from parents and elders only leads them to find out for themselves in both enlightening and tragic ways. It calls into question the role and responsibility of education in these subjects and the consequences of neglecting these responsibilities.
The dialogue between these characters is traditional theater, but what happens in between these moments is what separates this musical from others. When the characters break into song, the lights flash and the players flail and dance as if performing at Warped Tour. This is especially seen in “The Bitch of Living,” where the boys sing about their sexual fantasies and frustrations like not being able to take their eyes of their piano teacher’s chest or their undying homosexual attraction to their fellow peers.
The minimalist sets are made of grubby planks to make up various doors and stairs that would have been the norm of the era. Keeping in tradition of the original Broadway run, these numbers’ unruly nature is punctuated with the boys' punk-rock hair styles, microphones they pull from their blazers and the flashing red, blue, yellow and purple lights. By keeping these elements, it furthers the illusion of these teens' internal mutiny in a repressive culture.
Spring Awakening hits on the important issues that are still relevant today--particularly in Utah. It holds a mirror up to the Utaha standard of pushing sex education under the carpet because we want to keep our youth innocent from the world’s dangers. The production does an incredible job at presenting the variety of personalities that make up even the smallest small village.
The Midvale Main Street Theatre puts on a booming performance that resonates with the audience with the music’s beauty and message’s significance.
SPRING AWAKENING @ Midvale Main Street Theatre, 7711 South Main St, Midvale, 801-566-0596, Through June 28. $15 General Ticket, $12 Student Rush Ticket. MidvaleTheatre.com