I see an advertisement in a newspaper for the new musical I presume must be based on Wedekind’s “Spring Awakening” and learn that this show in America garnered eight Tonys including best musical. This ad is a photograph of a young man holding aloft an enormous microphone. He is in period costume, knickerbockers, and this anachronism of the mike (is it meant to be a phallic symbol?), small thing that it is, has really put me off wanting to see the show. Although the original play didn’t receive its first production until early in the twentieth century it was actually written late nineteenth and, looking at the costume, I presume this production is set in the correct period, so why the mike? It is so off-putting.
Wedekind’s play that he had published at his own expense, although it was found to be so shocking at the time, almost causing the earth to tremble – baby out of wedlock, homosexuality, mutual masturbation, suicide, abortion was, I am sure, written with the most serious intent although I do find his adolescent dialogue way off the mark, arguments propounded by an adult playwright who has put his words into the mouths of fourteen year olds. Perhaps this is the fault of the translation though maybe not. Considering sexual thinking when the play was first produced was still at the level of “A Boy At Fifteen” and “Eric Or Little By Little” (Blast! – Oh, Eric, I have never heard you swear before) the reaction to the play wasn’t in the least surprising. I can’t help thinking also that now as a musical it must be fairly difficult to cast. The boy in the photograph certainly looks a lot older than fourteen. If he is still ignorant about sex he’s retarded.
Having written the above I decided to look on Google for reviews, both from critics and from members of audiences and have come to the conclusion that my first reaction was the right one. This is not a show I would be interested in. In the first place it is a rock musical and I simply cannot see how rock could add anything to Mr Wedekind’s work. I am sure American audiences gave it a nightly standing ovation but then, and all my American friends I don’t mean to be rude here, Americans love standing ovations. They leap out of their seats at the drop of a hat. They seem to think it’s THE thing to do and I have seen them give a standing ovation to the most puerile of offerings.
But, talking of standing ovations, our friend Xanthippi sent us a YouTube video of an act on “Britain Has Talent”, a Scots lady by the name of Susan Boyle. She opened her mouth to sing and, I have no shame in admitting it, I burst into tears and sobbed uncontrollably through the entire song. A few hours later I played the video again and had exactly the same reaction. Admittedly the song she sang “I Dreamt a Dream” from Les Miserables leans towards being a tear-jerker, but what a voice! What a voice! It was reminiscent of my reaction to Barbara Cook, or Ileana Cotrubas in “La Traviata” at The Royal Opera House, literally spine chilling, or Joyce Barker singing the Liebestod from “Tristan & Isolde”. The audience too, from that very first note, was with Susan Boyle all the way, applauding and literarily roaring their approval, not the kind of hysterical shrieks of the pre-pubescent bratettes for a pop idol but the most wonderful sound, almost overwhelming and, yes … a well deserved standing ovation. English audiences used to be very much on the quiet side but it would seem they’ve learned a lesson from our American cousins. The little ten year old, Holly Steel, singing “I could Have Danced All Night” also got a standing ovation and that too was well deserved. I think if any of the panel of judges had given a no vote to either of these contestants they would have been lynched then and there. I do hope good things happen for Susan Boyle, at 47, having never had a chance to prove herself, she deserves it. When talent like that shines out it is too fantastic.