Eugene O’Neill Theatre, New York • 31 March 2007 • 2pm
Book & lyrics by Steven Sater. Music by Duncan Sheik. Based on the play by Frank Wedekind.
Directed by Michael Mayer. Choreography by Bill T. Jones. With Jonathan Groff (Melchior), John Gallagher, Jr. (Moritz), Lea Michele (Wendla), Stephen Spinella (The Adult Men), Frances Mercati-Anthony (The Adult Women [understudy]).
“Boring and pretentious” pretty much sums up my reaction to this musical. Based on the Frank Wedekind play, the book is about kids who are going through a rather typical teen-age crisis in a German village at the end of the 19th century. Only in this case the consequences are going to be pretty extreme. So far, so good.
The show has two major problems that I couldn’t overcome. The first one is that by the end of the first act, close to nothing has happened: there’s no impeding drama, no big question mark hanging in the air. You could leave and not have to live with the unbearable burden of not knowing what happens in the second act.
The second problem is that the show is built on a conceit that just doesn’t work for me: whenever they sing about their feelings, the kids get hold of hand-held mikes and sing songs very much in the style of Rent. I’m probably showing a severe shortcoming in my ability fully to appreciate brilliant new conceptual advances, but I didn’t buy it. At least the music in Rent sounds like the music that the kids on stage probably play or listen to.
There’s more pretentiousness in the scenic design, the way members of the audience get to sit on stage, etc. A shame because there definitely is some serious talent on that stage.