Monday, June 29, 2009

Broadway in Baltimore

Last weekend i finally got a chance to go to the Hippodrome Theater in Baltimore. It was renovated and reopened in 2004. I've always wanted to see the inside after the redo. It was beautiful. Why did i take no pictures, people? Plus the sound was excellent, which is always my concern in these old theaters. The Broadway Across America season is over at the Hippodrome, but there are various shows going on year round. Parking was reasonable for the city ($8) and even attached to the theater. You should go. I was able to finally see the inside because my high school best friend, Franci (no, not Francie in Belgium - she has an "E" and is in Belgium) won tickets to the Broadway traveling production of Spring Awakening. I'd never heard of it, but apparently it won 8 Tony Awards last year. Based on a play written in 1890 by Frank Wedekind it is coming of age story set in a provincial German town. Doesn't sound too interesting until you add that the original play was banned for years because it was considered too salacious. Sprinkle in rock music, nudity and teen-aged sex and you have a winner. I was a poster child for teenaged angst. It is hard to believe if you know me now, but at one time i found life meaningless, pined for my innocence and wrote terrible poetry that often featured blood and pain. Obviously i identified with most of the characters on stage. In fact, the plot was really nothing new : kids are confused, angry, and/or stressed and the adults range from loving, but unhelpful to outright cruel. We've seen variations of this story over and over again (especially when we GenXers started getting published) though i can see how it was groundbreaking in 1890. It was bittersweet to see the play sitting next to the person with whom i suffered much of my angst. We really rallied and kept each other afloat in high school and i was glad to briefly revisit that place and then look at the healthy, (mostly) sane adults we became. The music by Duncan Sheik (yes, that Duncan Sheik) was good, but not go-out-and-buy-the-CD great. Why, then, would i recommend that you see it? The staging is phenomenal. There are no set changes and most of the cast is on-stage during the entire performance. In fact, part of the audience even sits on stage. The lighting is jaw dropping. The choreography is marvelous. The band is incredible. And most importantly, the energy of the cast is infectious. There were some interesting choices made (like having all of the adult characters played by only 2 actors) and i can honestly say i have never seen anything quite like it. My only kvetches with the staging are that the nudity, though not at all gratuitous, felt like it was there simply to shock us, one pivotal scene between the leads about feeling pain being better than feeling nothing was rushed and a touch awkward, and there is one sequence of pointless and distracting hand/arm choreography that keeps cropping up like a bad rash. I'd like to see it again and sit on stage next time be in the midst the controlled chaos. The tour went to Philly after Baltimore and is in DC for an extended run next. The actor i saw play the main character Melchior, Kyle Riabko, is leaving the company and i know nothing about his replacement. However, if you can see it while Blake Bashoff is still playing Moritz you should - he was amazing as the best friend and often stole the show. Go relive those wonderful adolescent moments and come out thanking God you aren't there any more.

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