If you were one of the many thousnds who fell in love with SPRING AWAKENING back in the early 2000s (and with Jonathan Goff too) you will so not want to miss this adorable new documentary. It involves a reunion of the cast in 2021 as a one-night benefit concert for the Actors Fund, 15 years after its debut. That includes seeing not only the performance but the preparation for it, interspersed with footage of the musical from the past and discussion of its profound impact on those who flocked to it.
Winning 8 Tony Awards including Best Musical., the original show took its place in Broadway history for so many reasons. Over the years we have acclimatized to the unusual sources for new musicals ….. e.gg. like the President of Argentina or TS Elliot’s fine book of prose. However, Spring Awakening was even more unusual being based on the 1891 German play Spring Awakening by Frank Wedekind. Set in late 19th-century Germany, the musical tells the story of teenagers. discovering the inner and outer tumult of adolescent sexuality.
Back in 2006 no one even thought that an angsty rock musical adaptation of this seminal play that was about the trials and tribulations of growing up with its dark themes that touched on adolescent sexuality, homosexuality and even suicide would ever find an audience, but how very wrong they were. It was so perfect for the times and also later as this smash-hit musical would go on to spawn 6 more productions in the future.
It struck a similar chord as Jonathan Larson’s RENT had down in 1986, as no one up till then had mounted a Broadway Musical specifically for a teen+ audience and played by a cast of the same young ages.
The original cast, many very successful actors now, are together for the first time in 15 years, and they made no attempt at all to hide the sheer joy of meeting again. Many of them had spent their adolescence on the stage of the Eugene O’Neill theater back then, forming those deep bonds that one does in our youths.
The most touching of these scenes involved Jonathan Goff who hadn’t yet come out as gay at the time, and Lea Michele who had, practically grown up on the stage and fell in love with him, before the two became enduring friends. You’ll need a box of tissues for this one scene alone.
Whilst all the intimate behind-the-scenes moments captured so beautifully on camera make this whole documentary so compelling, just listening to Duncan Sheik’s music again brings it all flowing back. However this time, and being a tad older, we finally start to really appreciate the significance of Steven Sater’s very poignant lyrics too.
If you missed Spring Awakening the first time around, be sure to watch this reunion to see what you very sadly missed.
Spring Awakening: Those You've Known is streamed on HBO and HBO MAX
Review Roger Walker-Dack
Creator and Editor-in-Chief of QUEERGURU. Member of G.A.L.E.C.A. (Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association and NLGJA The Association of LGBT Journalists. and The Online Film Critics Society. Ex Contributing Editor The Gay Uk & Contributor Edge Media Former CEO and Menswear Designer of Roger Dack