By Nithia Devan
Spring Awakening is the latest production from Pangdemonium, which describes itself as “Singapore’s most kick-ass theatre company.” And it certainly is a bold move to showcase a rock musical focused on teenagers in the painful process of “waking up” to sexual awareness. It has been described as a tragicomedy and its controversial themes of teenage sex, rape, suicide, homosexuality, masturbation and abortion are not the stuff of usual Broadway hits.
But then again, Pangdemonium does mention that it is a theatre company “committed to producing English language works which are accessible, relevant, inspiring, challenging”. Artistic Directors Tracie Pang and Adrian Pang chose the musical comedy “The Full Monty” as their inaugural production in 2010. This was followed by two Patrick Marber plays in 2011; the dark psycho-sexual drama Closer and most recently, the black comedy, Dealer’s Choice.
So why “Spring Awakening”? “During a visit to New York in January 2009 Tracie and I happened to catch the closing performance of the Broadway production of Spring Awakening and it blew our minds. Here was the freshest, boldest, most exhilarating show we had seen in a long, long time, and crucially, one which was relatable to so many people. So as theatre practitioners striving to create work that resonates with audiences in meaningful, challenging and hopefully inspiring ways we felt that Spring Awakening was a story we as Pangdemonium wanted to tell.” Said Adrian Pang, who is also a well-known stage, film and television actor.
Spring Awakening is a rock musical adaptation of the controversial 1892 play of the same title by 19th century German satirist, Frank Wedekind. The current musical version is considered an interpretation of the original play, as it varies on many accounts from Wedekind's original version. Scenes follow a different order, the script is shorter and there are significant characterization and plot differences. Of course, the rock musical score was not part of the original version either. The production features music by Duncan Sheik plus book and lyrics by Steven Sater.
The story spins around a group of teenagers exploding with hormones, desire and shame and an almost total lack of understanding of sex, love and all the rest. The characters range from the misfit, the idealist, the innocent, the rebel, the Mama’s Boy, the runaway and the abused. Kept in a state of ignorance (or worse) by their parents, beaten down by teachers and preachers and getting tentative and confused messages from their peers, they are lost and at risk. Some opt for life; others self-destruct. They are discovering who they are and who they might become, in a world that seems hemmed in by the brutal hypocrisy of adults. The consequences are troubling for all. For these youths growing up in 1892, the only means of expressing their emotions is music - rock music.
Spring Awakening opened on Broadway in New York in 2006. In 2007 it received eleven Tony Award nominations and won eight, including Tonys for best musical, direction, book, score and featured actor. The show also won four Drama Desk Awards, while its London production won four Olivier Awards.So, look out for this exhilarating and very different musical, which opens in February 2012. Why should you watch it? Let’s leave the last word to the Artistic Directors of Pangdemonium; “We strongly feel that it is a story through which young people may find a voice, and in which all adults in positions as role models to the young – parents, guardians and teachers - may also rediscover some long-forgotten truths. In short, we humbly believe that people need to see this show.”