Student______Amanda Carzoli_________ English 1000C Essay
Instructions: For each essay, complete a coversheet after you have written a discovery
draft and then submit the coversheet with all subsequent drafts of the essay, revising
the coversheet as needed if your approach to the essay changes. You may write on the
back of this sheet if you need more room.
1. In a word or phrase, describe your topic. _________Broadway musical “Spring
2. In a word or phrase, give your working title. ________-- Not Sure yet. still
3. Complete the following sentence that tells why you are an insider on this subject;
that is, what qualifies you to write on this subject.?
I am an insider on this subject because
I have seen Spring Awakening six times. I have sat at different angles and different parts
of the theater and met the entire cast on three occasions at the stage door. I have
analyzed the show multiple times.
4. In two to four sentences complete the following, which should describe your
target audience in specific terms: class, gender, race, age, educational level,
geographical location and the like.
My target readers are
Mature teenagers (14-24)
I have chosen this specific audience because
I want young people to see the show because I think it is most relevant to the 14-22 age
5. Complete the following statements that indicate (a) the purpose that you want to
achieve in writing this essay for this specific audience and (b) the response you
expect from this audience.
My purpose in writing this essay is to
Get the word out about a must see musical on Broadway and emphasize that not all
Broadway musicals are the same.
I hope my audience will respond by
Seeing “Spring Awakening” as soon as possible!
6. Complete the following sentence to indicate what value your essay holds for its
My readers will benefit from reading this essay by
Having a good, solid background of knowledge about the show before hand, should they
decide to see it. I wish someone gave me the heads up and explained more to me the first
few times I say it.
7. In a word or phrase, identify the role you are playing as the author of this essay:
Are you writing in your role as a university student, new parent, concerned
citizen, dedicated worker, or what?
I am writing the essay about a university student. I am a student and like the
characters in the play, I have problems with friends and boys and school work and
8. In a complete sentence, state your thesis. Be sure that this statement is the same
thesis that appears in your essay.
While still managing to hit unbelievably close to home, Steven Sater’s “Spring
Awakening” is unlike any musical you’ve seen in the past and according to some
reviewers, may very well change every show with hopes of shining on Broadway in
Dr. Robert Leston
24 April, 2008
Over acting, unrealistic story lines, and cheesy one liners are just some of the
stereotypes that plague Broadway plays. Add larger than life song and dance to the pot
and you have all the makings for what some would consider to be a 2 ½ hour, musically
charged snooze fest. This is what most non-theatre goers would say in objection to
Broadway musicals. For advocates of the art-form however, the same over the top
stereotypes might exist, but here they are met with open arms-and jazz hands of course.
Now, take everything you know (or think you know) about the Broadway musical and
throw it out the window. While still managing to hit unbelievably close to home, Steven
Sater’s “Spring Awakening” is unlike any musical you’ve seen in the past and according
to some reviewers, may very well change every show with hopes of shining on Broadway
in the future.
According to Clive Barnes of the New York Post, “Spring Awakening [gives] an
unexpected sudden jot of genius,” while Charles Irsherwood of The New York Times
raves that “Broadway will never be the same.” From the eight 2007 Tony Awards it took
home last year-including the coveted title of “Best Musical”-it’s easy to conclude that
both reviewrs couldn’t be more right. Set in 1891 Germany, the play covers subject
matter that was highly controversial then, and certainly never addressed on Broadway
until now. Suicide, sex, lies, homosexuality, and abuse in its many forms are just a
sampling of the issues covered (not to mention sang about) in “Spring Awakening.” The
downward spiral of enthralling complications starts with the young Wendla (played by
Lea Michelle) asking her mother the taboo question of where babies come from through
the riveting chorus in “Mama who bore me?” The following scenes in which the main
characters-all portrayed by a young cast ranging in age from 17-24-face challenging
social and moral issues for any generation are intertwined with teen angst and pressure
from the narrow minded elders.
All the characters in the play are struggling with schoolwork, social pressures, and
their developing sexuality. In a world where the only purpose of sex was to reproduce,
the show’s youth battle the shame and fear that comes with adolescence and ignorance
about their own desires. The main character, Melchior Gabore (played by Jonathan
Groff) is the exception to this theme in the play. A product of his mother’s more lenient
philosophy in raising children, Melchior seems like a radical compared to the other teens.
He is smart and inquisitive and has a certain amount of influence over his classmates-all
of which the oppressive, conformist headmaster and mistress of the school fear and
loathe. It is apparent early on that the teens can’t get answers to the kinds of questions
they are beginning to have (about sex and marriage) and they turn to Melchior (a
teenager, just like themselves) for answers. Take a bunch of adolescents with pressing
questions and adults withholding their answers, and eventually things are going to go
seriously wrong-and they do. The innocence (and essentially ignorance) that the adults in
the play instill in their youth creates teen angst like you’ve never seen before.
For a show that touches on such groundbreaking issues, it wouldn’t be realistic to
include the talk of such things without the portrayal of them as well. To put it plainly,
people don’t just talk about sex, they engage in it too. In respect to this, there is a
simulated sex scene at the end of the show’s first act-done tastefully, of course. To some,
the scene is shocking and too vulgar to appear on Broadway. On the contrary, however, I
think it is necessary in order to get the play’s message across and to fully commit to the
subject matter. To cut the scene (which yes, even includes some nudity) would be
equivalent to the director saying, “We think sex should be discussed and embraced…but
Perhaps even more outrageous than “Spring Awakening’s” storyline is the history
of the musical. The show’s 1891, Germany setting isn’t just a random, conservative time
and place that the director, Steven Sater randomly picked to portray a musical. The show
was actually written by in that year, by German playwright Frank Wedekind, most
famous for his 1904 play, “Pandora’s Box.” The play’s issues which many consider to be
controversial today were even more frowned upon at the time “Spring Awakening” was
written. Although changed were made and certain elements were embellished to suite the
stage, most of the most controversial material (sex, masturbation, abortion, rape, and
suicide) comes from Wedekind’s original version and was therefore banned in Germany
soon after its publication. After refinement in workshops at the Lincoln Center and two
years off-Broadway, the show made the move to Broadway in 2006. Soon after it nabbed
eight 2007 Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original
Score, Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical (Jonathan Gallagher for his
portrayal of the troubled Moritz), Best Direction of a Musical, Best Choereography, Best
Lighting, and Best Orchestrations. In addition to taking home countless other awards,
“Spring Awakening” also won a Grammy in 2008 for Best Musical Show Album.
In addition to a groundbreaking storyline, the play is fraught with symbolism and
hidden meaning from each attention grabbing scene to the next. The adult rolls in the
play-be it so-and-so’s mother or the rigid headmaster and mistress of the school-are
played by the same two adult actors. Listed in the playbill as simply “adult male” and
“adult female,” this is supposed underline that it doesn’t matter which older-and
supposedly wiser-adult is inflicting the pain, they’re all variations of the same oppressor
and most importantly, they don’t understand their generation’s youth. The soundtrack
also contributes to said “hidden meaning” and is just one more thing that sets “Spring
Awakening” apart from anything we’ve seen in bright lights on Broadway. At first
glance, Germany at the close of the 19th century might not scream pop music, but the
catchy, rock-and-roll based songs tell us that the issues are just as relevant today as they
were over 100 years ago. Some critics were surprised that “Spring Awakening” won the
Tony for Best Choreography.
Those who disagreed with the nomination and subsequent award, however, most
likely missed the symbolism in even this aspect of the musical. Throughout the show,
there is a continuous set of motions the actors perform that are repetitive and restrictive,
using only the arms to carry out each methodic motion. Towards the final curtain
following a key scene in the play’s development, however, during a song appropriately
titled “Totally F*cked,” the actors run to the front of the stage and in a single file line
facing the audience, they perform these motions over and over until they finally break out
in wild, chaotic, and completely unrestricted dance. Keeping with the theme of death to
conformity and those who enforce it, this abrupt change in choreography is symbolic of a
long-coming, final break from the way society tells the characters to live and conduct
themselves in the form of an explosive, cathartic jumble of bodies jumping around and
dancing (and in essence) living according to their own terms. The title, “Spring
Awakening,” even holds certain meaning in accordance with the themes in the show.
Spring is a time for new beginnings and the birth of life-in this case, it is the new lives of
the main characters as young adults after the turmoil portrayed in earlier scenes. So not
only is the play entertaining and meaningful, but it includes more clues and subtle genius
beneath the already dazzling surface.
“Spring Awakening” is everything the critics say it is and more. It’s
groundbreaking and mystifying and packs a “sudden jolt of genius” and shocks views in
the best possible way. It is relevant and appreciated by older generations and general
supporters of the arts but it also strikes a chord with its younger audience and has a
devoted fan base to prove it. It is wildly different than the stereotypical Broadway
Musical in every way and a breath of fresh air to the over-charged, over-rated musical
that so many are used to. With rush tickets for $26 dollars sold on the day of the show
with a valid student ID and on-stage seating at $42 dollars available on a first come-first
serve basis (another unique experience in which the actors sit next to the on-stage
audience during the show, further pointing out that some part of all of us is just like
them), there is really no valid reason not to experience for yourself the intensity that so
many people already have. “Spring Awakening” changes anything and everything we
once knew about Broadway, musicals, and theatre in general, and for some, it may even
change what we know about ourselves.