Broadway Musical Soundtrack
Lyrics By: Steven Sater
Music By: Duncan Sheik
Produced By: Decca Broadway
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
In 1891, German playwright Frank Wedekind created a masterpiece about sexuality and puberty among young German students. It would be a gross understatement to say that the subject matter of Frühlings Erwachen, otherwise known as Spring Awakening, was exceedingly controversial for the times. The play was banned from the stage for almost a century due to its content. In the spring of 1999, American playwright Steven Sater, having been long intrigued by Wedekind’s forbidden play, contacted musician Duncan Sheik and proposed that they create a musical based upon the original play. At first Duncan Sheik was reluctant, unhappy with the fact that in most musicals, actors would be speaking to each other one minute and singing to each other in the next. However, Sater came up with the concept that the lyrics would serve as asides, as a way for the audience to see into the minds of the characters and not as a form of communication between each other. It was then that Sheik signed on.
History may often repeat itself – Spring Awakening was just as controversial when it hit Broadway in 2006 as it was in 1891. However, this time around, Spring Awakenings is a smash hit that has everyone singing its accolades. The story itself deals with young students on the verge of becoming men and women. Each student struggles with their puberty in different ways. Wendla wonders about all the changes she is going through, but her mother refuses to discuss the subject with her. Melchior, young, brilliant and fearless seeks to take his newfound manliness for a spin, experimenting with the timid Wendla. His friend Moritz is so traumatized by puberty that he begins to spiral downward into a deep depression that he can’t seem to find a way out of. Things soon spin out of control and tragedy strikes – a tragedy that could have been avoided had anyone stopped to explain to these young men and women about the changes puberty brings about.
The soundtrack of Spring Awakening consists of lyrics written by Steven Sater set to music provided by Duncan Sheik, a winning combination. Dealing with adult subject matter, the lyrics are anything but childish. Before listening to the soundtrack, be forewarned: it contains a parental advisory for explicit lyrics. However, this listener found the lyrical content to be refreshing. What high school student wouldn’t think to themselves in this manner. In dealing with serious subject matter, the lyrics must be serious and believable. Sater achieves this goal perfectly, tackling the mystery of puberty to those who must endure it, the hardships of living the life of a teenager, the forbidden subject of masturbation, teenage sex, depression, suicide and more. Duncan Sheik’s music is as powerful as ever, hard-hitting in certain instances, soft and innocent in others.
The Spring Awakening Soundtrack comes with an informational booklet which contains pictures, a brief synopsis of the story, its origins, performer listings and song lyrics. Don’t completely count on the accuracy of the song lyrics as printed in this booklet though – I found some verses to be mixed up in certain songs (Mamma Who Bore Me would be one particular example). However, this hardly detracts from the book or CDs value. The music is excellent, the lyrics honest representations of teenagers’ thoughts, and the performance of the songs amazing. The voices of the original cast of Spring Awakening are clear and strong and harmonize well with each other. Tackling the subject matter honestly and realistically, the Spring Awakening Soundtrack is an attractive purchase for any teenager or full-fledged adult.