Tuesday, October 12, 2010

THEATRE BOOK REVIEW: Spring Awakening: In the Flesh

Theatre Book Review: Spring Awakening: In the Flesh. Book by David Cote and Libretto and Lyrics by Steven Sater, Music by Duncan Sheik. Published by Gallery. Copyright 2008. Hardcover. 176 pages.

I realize that I am way behind the curve on this one, but I just got around to purchasing a copy of this companion to one of my favorite musicals of the last decade, and forever, really, Spring Awakening

Provocatively subtitled In the Flesh, the book details the genesis of the entire project, from idea to workshop (several workshops) to the Atlantic Theatre off-Broadway to the award-winning Broadway run.  The last pages even include a few bits about casting the First National Touring company.

Real fans probably know a lot of the information in the book, told from what must have been pretty intense and lengthy interviews of the original cast, the first replacement cast and the creative team.  But as a musical theatre enthusiast, I found the organization of the book - in chronological order for the most part, and at times by thematic ideas - to really plot the course for what started out as an idea based on a favorite - if old and disturbing - play, all the way through to the then future plans for the show.  I was really taken by the candid responses from all involved, citing not just the joyous triumphant moments, but the trials, tribulations and realizations that such a bold endeavor can cause for an artistic soul.  This warts and all approach, however, should no be misconstrued as salacious or gossipy, but rather matter of fact.

Some of the highlights for me included:
  • The discussion of a character in the play that does not appear in the final version of the show, but did during workshops: The Masked Man, played mostly by Michael Cerveris, who at various times functioned as in the original play, to being a narrator, to being the "go-between" for the transition between the 19th Century  and 21st Century Germany.

  • The change in outlook by Lea Michele, who started with the show from the very first workshop as a young teenager.  How her growth impacted the character, her understanding of the part, and on the piece as a whole is fascinating.
  • I loved reading about the various experiences the cast had with the audition process.
  • Reading some revealing and remarkably mature observations about their characters, particularly from Jonathan B. Wright, Jonathan Groff, Gideon Glick and John Gallagher, Jr. certainly gives me a new appreciation for the level of professionalism amongst the cast members.
  • Very interesting, too, are the bits about how the cast reacted to becoming a "phenomenon" far beyond Broadway.

The Original Cast in "Street Clothes"

  • And I really enjoyed reading about somethings they tried during previews on Broadway, including having the cast return to the stage dressed in whatever street clothes they wore that day for the final scene.
 As far as the book itself goes, I loved the style of the presentation, like an old style school book (how appropriate).  And I really appreciated the inclusion of costume sketches, early and ultimately unused set designs, as well as photos that chronicle the backstage and rehearsal periods.  One of my favorite picture sections shows the cast during "The Bitch of Living" video shoot.

"The Bitch of Living"

And, of course, of supreme value is the inclusion of the complete libretto, including vivid descriptions of characters and their thoughts, as well as stage directions.  The entire thing is supplemented by photos that match the action on any given page.

Lauren Pritchard with Tony winners
Duncan Sheik, John Gallagher, Jr. and Steven Sater

Fans of the show will certainly love this book, and true musical theatre lovers and scholars should as well.  Better late than never they say, and I am so glad I got this book even now, months after the show closed on Broadway.


(NOTE:  The above pictures are not necessarily in the book, but rather are representative of my thoughts on the book.)

Comments?  Leave one here or email me at jkstheatrescene@yahoo.com, or Tweet me!

1 comment:

  1. Check out Spring Awakening star Kyle Riabko in 'Rising Stars' coming soon! http://bit.ly/StaRZ


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