Sunday, December 16, 2007

So sorry to see you go

I know I'm way too old to be a "Spring Awakening" fangirl, but what can I say? I love this show. When I saw the Tony winner for best musical, in July, all I could think was, this is how people must have felt when they first saw "Hair" on Broadway in 1968. Spring Awakening is just so exciting, so imaginative in the way it tells its story.

And what an energetic, talented cast. At times, I felt like I was at a concert in a little club somewhere discovering a great new band. I loved the way rock music is used to tell a story that takes place more than a hundred years ago, with the anachronisms of modern lighting and microphones.

When I saw the song list, with titles like "Totally F***ed" and "The Bitch of Living," I wondered how they'd fit into the show, whether they'd be raunchy just for the sake of being raunchy. But the way the cast performed them, they were funny and they worked perfectly and they were really exciting to watch.

At first, I didn't think I'd be all that interested in teenage angst and sexual awakening in 19th century Germany, but I was very moved by the story. I felt for these teenagers and what they were going through and the pressures they faced. While some parts were fairly predictable, I think even a predictable story can pack an emotional punch if you care about the characters. And by the end, I was crying.

"Spring Awakening" was the last show in my summertime marathon of seven musicals in five days. Maybe part of it was reaching the end, but I left the theater feeling drained and exhilarated and wanting to listen to the music again.

My seat was near the rear of the orchestra in the Eugene O'Neill Theatre. I thought afterward that it would be great to see "Spring Awakening" up close, maybe even from the onstage seats, right next to John Gallagher Jr. So of course I'm a little sad that today was the Tony winner's final performance as troubled schoolboy Moritz, but I'm so glad I had a chance to see him in the role.

In addition to being a terrific actor, singer and musician, the 23-year-old Gallagher is also a tremendously gracious young man. Although I'm sorry to see him leave the "Spring Awakening," I wish him all the best with whatever he tackles next. While his band, Old Springs Pike, has concerts coming up this winter, I hope there's more acting in Gallagher's future as well.

I had the pleasure of meeting Gallagher at the stage door after a Wednesday matinee. He was the last cast member to come out. A large part of the very large crowd had left, and I was so disappointed because I thought I'd missed him. But eventually he appeared, smiling and looking like he'd just showered. He chatted and posed for pictures with everyone as made his way down the line.

I'd already arranged with the person next to me that we'd take each other's pictures. When Gallagher got to us, I congratulated him on his well-deserved Tony and said we'd each like an autograph and to have our pictures taken with him. He beamed and said sweetly, "Well, I'd like to have my picture taken with you." Ok, let me just say, Mr. and Mrs. Gallagher, if you're reading this, you raised a very polite son! It was a such a memorable way to end my trip to New York.

While Gallagher has moved on, and Christine Estabrook, who plays the female adult roles, is leaving this week, much of the original cast remains with "Spring Awakening." The equally talented Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele, who portray lovers Melchior and Wendla, have extended their stay through May 18. (I think Michele has an absolutely gorgeous voice). Replacing Gallagher will be film and television actor Blake Bashoff, making his Broadway debut. Tony nominee Kate Burton will replace Estabrook.


Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Esther, Like you, I was completely blown away by John Gallagher's performance and was cheering him on as he won his Tony.

Having had the opportunity to catch him in The Rabbit Hole two years ago, it was stunning departure. And what incredibly chops this gifted young actor has.

While I'm sure it's a sad day at Spring Awakening, I for one cannot wait to see what he does next. You can bet I'll make every attempt to be there again.

Esther said...

I'm with you Steve! I think it's great that you've been able to see him in two such different roles. While I love John Gallagher's singing, it would be great to see him tackle a part in a straight play. Whatever he does next, I definitely want to be there.