‘Spring Awakening’ rocks to teenage angst

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‘Spring Awakening’ rocks to teenage angst


Melchior (Yoon Hyun-min) and his classmates perform “The Bitch of Living” in “Spring Awakening” at Doosan Art Center. Provided by Musical Heaven

I had two worries going into “Spring Awakening”: Would Seoul’s small-scale production of the Tony Award-winning musical be able to translate its provocative, meaningful message for the local audience? And would Korean theatergoers be willing to watch a show that unabashedly delves into themes like abortion, premarital sex, rape and homosexuality?

But after seeing it, I realized that it was only I who had been closed-minded.

Premiering on Broadway in 2006, “Spring Awakening” swept the Tony Awards the following year, winning eight awards including best musical.

The musical is a riveting amalgamation of 19th century Germany - and all of its attendant oppressive morals - and modern day rock - originally composed by Duncan Sheik. And despite the curiosity of setting a 21st century musical about adolescence in 19th century provincial Europe, the combination works.

The musical, which opened in Seoul on June 3, is an adaptation of German playwright Frank Wedekind’s 1891 play, and taboo themes he explored then are still relevant - and all consuming - among youth today.

Whether then or Korea in 2011, bodies change, curiosities are piqued and parents are defied. The challenges and confusion of puberty are universal, if unspoken.


Wendla, the lead female character, is sweet and shy. Played by Song Sang-eun, her questions about the birds and the bees are answered with filibusters and lies from her mother. Add hormones to her confusion and you get sex - with Melchior, a clever, rebellious boy (played by Yoon Hyun-min) who isn’t afraid to challenge his puritan surroundings.

“It’s alright,” Melchior says in Korean before doing the deed. She replies: “Okay,” trusting and oblivious to the consequences. It was a strange moment illustrative of adolescent angst - teenagers so easily trusting of each other yet so defiant of adults.

Melchior, who learns of human sexuality from books, is the moral (or immoral) center of the cast. He comforts Wendla about having sex, and he counsels Moritz - a troubled, skittish lad played by Jeong Dong-hwa - on his wet dreams and urges to masturbate, telling him that they are natural.

The musical cleverly interweaves moments and scenes of levity and humor with moments of immense tragedy and introspection - all in the name of exploring and confronting the carnal and psychological turbulence of adolescents. Melchior’s classmate, Georg, even masturbates to fantasies of his piano teacher.

But what’s impressive about the teenagers isn’t the fact that they develop physical desires but their boldness to give the finger to a society hellbent on molding them into picture-perfect replicas of the student, wife, husband, what have you. The small gestures and moments of rebellion express the children’s desire to be in control of their own lives.

The rock music in the performance fits the narrative well. “The Bitch of Living” is a highlight. Fast-paced and pounding, the song is in sync with the frustrations of the characters who perform them, with jumping and flailing and dancing upon desks. But the musical has its share of sorrowful tunes, haunting and poignant against the show’s gothic backdrop.

Throughout the show, I imagined what I would have thought if I had seen “Spring Awakening” as a teenager. Would I have agreed with its message? Or would I have dismissed it as a farcical representation of what I was going through? The mind of a teenager can be impossible to divine, but “Spring Awakening” does a job well done in illustrating the confusion.

*“Spring Awakening” runs through Sept. 4 at Doosan Art Center. Shows are at 8 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, 3 and 7 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. There are no performance on Mondays. Tickets range from 30,000 won to 60,000 won. To get to the theater, go to Jongno 5-ga Station, line No. 1, exit 1. For more information, call (02) 744-4334 or go to www.springawakening.co.kr.

By Lee Sun-min [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [브랜드뉴스]

스프링 어웨이크닝, 사춘기의 성고민

답답한 현실 부수고픈 젊은이들의 몸부림

스프링 어웨이크닝
6월 3일~9월 4일 두산아트센터 연강홀 3만~6만원. 문의 02-744-4334

2007년 토니상 시상식에서 가장 주목받은 작품은 11개 부문에 노미네이트돼 8개 부문에서 수상한 ‘스프링 어웨이크닝’이었다. 이 작품은 19세기 말 발표된 프랑크 베데킨트의 동명 연극을 원작으로 한다. 엄격한 교육 제도와 자연스러운 본능을 억압하는 사회 병폐를 표현주의 기법으로 보여준 원작은 발표 당시 충격적인 내용 때문에 공연이 금지됐다가 10여 년이 지난 후에야 무대에 올려졌다.

뮤지컬 역시 파격적이다. 무대에 객석이 올라가 있고, 책상 같은 간단한 소품을 이용해 장면 전환을 한다. 연기 하던 배우들이 속주머니에서 마이크를 꺼내 노래를 부르는 등 연출도 독특하다. 성(性)에 눈뜨는 청소년들의 정사 장면을 재연해 이슈가 되기도 했다.

이 작품은 기성세대의 억압 속에 파멸해가는 젊은이 이야기를 다룬다. 지적이고 도전적인 멜키어는 벤들라를 임신시키고 감화원으로 쫓겨난다. 성에 대해 무지한 벤들라는 자신에게 벌어진 일을 이해하지 못하고 불법 낙태수술을 받다가 죽는다. 한편 모리츠는 시험에 낙방하자 부모님을 실망시킬 것이 두려워 자살한다. 자연스러운 본능을 억압하는 분위기에 순응한 학생들은 동성애 행위를 하고, 그러한 억압을 박차고 나간 일부는 제도권 보호 밖에서 방황한다. 억눌린 젊은이들의 열정과 본능은 격정적인 춤과 노래로 표출된다. 빌 T. 존스의 몸부림에 가까운 안무는 답답한 현실을 부수고 싶은 젊은세대의 욕망을 반영한다. 던컨 쉬크의 록 음악은 젊은이들의 억눌린 욕구 분출구가 되고 젊은 관객을 뮤지컬에 끌어들이는 힘을 발휘한다. 젊은 음악, 파격적인 소재와 연출, 모던한 안무가 결합된 이 작품은 진지한 주제를 뮤지컬적으로 풀어가는 한 방식을 보여준다. 2009년 국내 초연은 평단으로부터 호평을 받았으나 대중적인 지지를 받지는 못했다. 올해는 스타 캐스팅을 배제하고 작품성에 승부를 걸었다. 티켓 가격을 4만원으로 낮추는 등 대중적인 접근을 한다.


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