Teen Troubles and Musical Numbers at Recent ‘Spring Awakening’ Performance

By Isobel Steenrod

At the end of Block 3, the Colorado College Theater Department performed “Spring Awakening,” a musical adaptation of the 1891 play by Fred Wedekind. The critically acclaimed Broadway musical by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater won eight Tony Awards in 2007. The show was a collaboration between the theater department and the music department, and the sheer amount of talent contributed to the piece really showed.

Set in Germany in the 1890s, the musical follows a group of students as they navigate adolescence. While occasionally comedic, the story also deals with topics of love, loss, sexuality, abuse, abortion, and suicide. The characters express themselves through songs, some of which include the teen-angst-filled “The Bitch of Living,” or, when the students run into trouble at school, “Totally Fucked.”

One student, Moritz Stiefel, struggles with poorly understood sexual desires, getting kicked out of school for flunking a test, lack of parental affirmation, and suicidal thoughts. Moritz ultimately shoots himself in the woods, and his ghost comes back to talk to his classmate, Melchior Gabor. His friends are suddenly faced with the realities of life and have to grow up much more quickly than anticipated.

Photo courtesy of Isobel Steenrod

The central plot follows a romance between Wendla Bergmann and Melchior, childhood friends who reconnect and share their thoughts and internal conflicts with one another. The teens struggle with their feelings, especially when the adults in their lives refuse to tell them anything educational about sex, so they have to rely on their own research. Things take a turn for the worse when Wendla, unbeknownst to her, becomes pregnant. Her mother arranges a back-alley abortion against Wendla’s will, and she dies in the process, never getting the chance to reunite with her lover, Melchoir.

Lili Whittier ’21, who played Wendla, loved the collaborative nature of the musical.

Her favorite part was “sharing an emotional experience with a group of people to send a message.”

As a theater major, Whittier tries to be as involved as possible in every production. When she is not acting, she works to construct sets. The cast of ‘Spring Awakening’ put in a lot of time and effort over the past block to put on a great show, rehearsing three hours every day.

“It was exhausting, but it taught me a lot of discipline and how to show up for other people,” she said.

The show, which rails against the close-minded views of adults and the troubles adolescents face, closes with all the characters in a rousing chorus and a middle finger to the sky.

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