Sure, I had seen many live performances previous to my Saturday night in Manhattan. As a radio and television personality/reporter, I have met many celebrities, and witnessed many concerts and live events, ranging from rock to rap to opera; the good, bad and ugly; the hole-in-the-wall bar and the multi-million dollar theater. I’ve seen musicals in Toronto, concerts in Rochester, NY, and comedy shows in New York. The circumstances usually do not foreshadow the outcome, as some of my favorite performances were on small, dimly lit stages in hostile environments, while other, plusher venues that may have offered a more comfortable setting did not offer a more satisfying performance.
However surprisingly enough, I had never attended a Broadway production. There was one close call – my mother and sister tried to drag me into what would have been my second viewing of Beauty and the Beast (my first – Toronto). But I convinced Mom that it wasn’t worth $45 to snag me a ticket. I enjoyed the performance in T-Dot, and my mother and sister raved about the Broadway version of the musical. However, in the end I concluded that my time and money was better spent drinking Coors Lights (albeit 20 years-old at the time) and taking in some of the finer comedy venues in the city.
And yes, Chuck Nice is just as hilarious in person as he is as a guest panelist on one of my favorite shows, VH1’s Best Week Ever. What can I say, I am a pop-culture junky.
But in my opinion, that revelation makes the fact that I haven’t experienced a Broadway performance even more outlandish. Simply put, while in New York, I enjoyed the nightlife, the Yankees, and my ever-growing population of friends and acquaintances in the area. Consequently, it would take my girlfriend, who currently resides in Stamford, CT, to propose a night filled with spirits, gourmet food, and a trip to Broadway for something other than a picture with the Naked Cowboy or a gawk-session at the massive MTV studios on 1515 Broadway.
As early as last year I heard about a musical that was turning heads, raising ears, and garnering a fair amount of praise from regular theatergoers and critics alike. Spring Awakening is set in 1890-Germany, with adolescent men and women coming into their own sexual beings – and experiencing the same feelings, pleasures, and anguishes as we do in the modern world.
Of course, it certainly goes without saying that 1890 Germany is a bit distinguishable from 2007 America.
And so these young adults awaken into new sexual ventures – the frustration of the “wet dream,” the semi-constant fantasying of a sexual partner – in this instance, the options ranged from two male friends to one student and his mother. The awkwardness did not end there – as adolescent sex experiences would not be completely and accurately depicted without representing both the sometimes awkward “talk” a parent must have with their child, and the facts that may or may not be left out. Finally, the unfathomable: having a parent walk in during a masturbation session.
All of the shenanigans, as well as more serious parts of the production that included domestic abuse, abortion, and suicide; took place amongst a foray of clever set maneuvering, which included cast members and ensemble singers mixed within patrons on special “side stage” seats, as well as a live band, and catchy, yet not over-the-top choreography.
As my girlfriend so eloquently stated, “The musical included all of the necessary emotions.” Although I refrained from tissues, I’ll admit I did come close to choking back tears during one scene in the second half. Comedy, tragedy, loss, and unity were all depicted through the amazing vocal talents of the cast as well as lyrics and melodies that seemed fit for the late 90’s of the 20th century than the 19th.
This observation makes perfect sense when its taken into account that the Grammy-nominated group Duncan Sheik claims responsibility for the score of the musical. Duncan’s hit Barely Breathing gained the duo mainstream notoriety in the 90s.
A young, spunky group of Broadway performers, an edgy storyline with in-your-face guitar riffs, drum beats, and lyrics, and a touch of historical perspective – came together Saturday night to make Spring Awakening one of the finest performances I have ever witnessed – period.
And look no further than the consumption of tissues and the purchase of the musical’s compact disc midway through the night to obtain my girlfriend’s concurrence.
Maybe I’ll do this Broadway thing more often.
Spring Awakening recently won eight Tony awards, including Musical of the Year.