Today we continue the 2014 edition of our annual BroadwayWorld feature series spotlighting the very best Tony Awards-related moments of all time with a special focus on a controversial contemporary musical with an awe-inspiring original cast, SPRING AWAKENING.
The Song Of Purple Summer
Frank Wedekind's button-pushing 19th century play SPRING AWAKENING may not immediately seem to be the ideal basis for a present day Broadway rock musical - particularly with its unflinching look at heterosexuality, homosexuality, child abuse and teen suicide - yet composer Duncan Sheik and lyricist/bookwriter Steven Sater set out to adapt just that with their edgy and contemporary take on the controversial source material in 2006. Proving that their initial instincts were quite correct, the corrosive power of the elegant, evocative, eerie, and, at times surreal songs composed for the piece was simply astounding to experience in the original Broadway production as directed by Michael Mayer, brought to a whole other level entirely by the incredibly impressive assortment of talent amassed in the original cast.
Lea Michele, Jonathan Groff, John Gallagher Jr. and Skylar Astin may by and large all be household names now, but SPRING AWAKENING was their major mainstage entré - at least as adults - and the musical provided each and every one of them a chance to show off their considerable triple-threat abilities, all while telling a dark and complex tale all to applicable to modern times and the experiences of teenagers to this very date in doing so. Matching them note-for-note was the superb score of the show, utilizing contemporary sounds from pop and rock while also paying tribute to theatrical tradition insofar as form, structure and composition in uniquely arresting ways, as well. Certainly, the idiosyncratic choreography by Bill T. Jones showcased the actors at their best and fit the anomalous show itself to a T, especially the inventive employment of hand mics for the actors throughout for standout performance moments such as "The B*tch Of Living" and "Totally F*cked". Indeed, the song titles alone say quite a bit about the daring nature of this treacherously risky and rightly richly well-rewarded modern musical.
Speaking of which, SPRING AWAKENING not only won the Tony Award for Best Musical, but trophies were also taken home by composer Duncan Sheik, bookwriter Steven Sater and Featured Actor In A Musical John Gallagher Jr., as well as Michael Mayer for Best Direction Of A Musical, Bill T. Jones for Best Chroeography, Duncan Sheik for Best Orchestrations and Kevin Adams for Best Lighting Design.
So, now, let's look at some of the SPRING AWAKENING moments most worth revisiting.
First, the original cast of SPRING AWAKENING performs on the 2007 Tony Awards.
Next, go behind the scenes of SPRING AWAKENING in this Tony Awards weekend spotlight.
Now, John Gallagher Jr. accepts his Tony Award for Best Featured Actor In A Musical.
Lastly, the ladies of SPRING AWAKENING perform at the Drama Desk Awards.
As a special bonus, view the Tony Awards-themed promotional ad for SPRING AWAKENING.
So, what makes SPRING AWAKENING a major 21st century musical for the record books as far as you are concerned? Is it the sensational collection of songs? The timely themes of the tale being told? The spectacular original cast? Whatever your reason for falling in love with SPRING AWAKENING, it is undoubtedly a Best Musical that we can be eternally grateful went all the way on Tony Awards night.