'Spring Awakening' reveals naivete of youth

From left, actors Jung Dong-hwa, Yoon Hyun-min and Song Sang-eun in a scene of the musical "Spring Awakening" / Courtesy of Musical Heaven

Musical featuring provocative teen themes returns to Korea

By Kwon Mee-yoo

Charismatic but inexperienced, curious about the secrets of her body and haunted by dreams of a woman's legs, the daring teens of the Tony Award-winning musical "Spring Awakening" returned to the stage at Yonkang Hall of Doosan Art Center in central Seoul.

The musical is based on a late-19th-century play of the same title, created in the United States in 2006 and premiered here in 2009.

However, the dynamic, daring heartbeat of teenagers speaks the same language in Korea with alternative indie rock music.

Kim Min-jung, the local director of the show, said "Spring Awakening" can change by the different textures of the actors and the new actors have brought freshness to this year's production. There are no top stars, but young, aspiring actors breathe fresh air into the second production in Korea.

Yoon Hyun-min, who plays the role of a model student-turned-rebel Melchior, was a baseball player with the Hanwha Eagles and Doosan Bears. He fell in love with the stage after watching the musical "Finding Mr. Destiny" and quit sports to start acting.

Melchior is the heartthrob who looks charismatic and smart among his friends but most of his knowledge comes from books. Yoon is not an established actor, but he portrays the subtle emotion of a handsome boy, hovering between what he learned from books and what he actually feels for his childhood friend Wendla.

Song Sang-eun makes her debut on the local theater scene playing Wendla, the curious girl who falls for Melchior. The big-eyed girl is the daughter of veteran actor Song Young-chang, who is also on the cast and dares to expose her breast in front of the audience and even her father.

However, her naive, pure first love precedes mild nudity. When she sings "Whispering", her sweet voice soothes Mechior, their parents and herself with a glimpse of optimism about her future.

Jung Dong-hwa plays Moritz, an insecure friend of Melchior who is obsessed by obscene dreams. Jung has plenty of theater experience compared to his fellow actors, having appeared as Link Larkin in "Hairspray" and the younger brother of homegrown hit "Brothers Were Brave". He maintains the balance of the show with rich and lively expressions.

Drenched in sweat, Jung sings of the devastation of Moritz after failing his final exams in "And Then There Were None" and why he made an extreme decision in "Don't Do Sadness".

Duncan Sheik's powerful yet crossover alternative rock enlivens the anguish of teenagers. "Totally F****d" explodes with the vigor and passion of the students against Melchior's expulsion, while "The Song of Purple Summer" wraps up the show by soothing the fever and scars of the teenagers as they grow out of adolescence.

Onstage seating is another charm of "Spring Awakening". There are two rows of wooden chairs on stage left and three on stage right and the seats are shared by the actors and the audiences.

Despite the discomfort of old-fashioned classroom chairs, it provides a rare experience of being a part of the show, seating next to an actor or peeking at the essay Melchior wrote for Moritz, which is complete with illustrations.

The musical runs through Sept. 4. Tickets cost from 30,000 to 60,000 won. Visit www.springawakening.co.kr or call (02) 744-4334 for more information.

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