Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

Ricky Spaulding (Melchior) and Caitlin Sarwono (Wendla) in The 5th Avenue Theatre's production of "Spring Awakening." (Photo: Tracy Martin)

‘Spring Awakening’ at the 5th Avenue: edgy, poignant and not for everyone

The musical "Spring Awakening" deals with many tough topics and is not appropriate for young kids.

Our unofficial theater critic (she’s 16) acknowledges that “Spring Awakening” might not be appropriate for a lot of her peers.

She wishes all of their parents would see it, though.

That hits at the crux of her interpretation and appreciation of the new Fifth Avenue Theater production: When adults don’t try to understand young people, the consequences can be devastating.

“Spring Awakening” is based on an 1891 play by Frank Wedekind that was once banned in Germany. The musical sets the story to rock music from the early 2000s. To call it edgy would be an understatement. One of the song titles features an expletive, which the cast shouts repeatedly.

The show won eight Tony Awards, including best musical, in 2007. The Fifth Avenue describes “Spring Awakening” as “an electrifying journey through the trials and challenges of adolescence” and a story that “explores the mystery of attraction, desire, sex, insecurity, and the highs and lows of navigating the pressures of young adult life. … a poignant and thrilling ride that stings with resonance for today’s youth.”

“Stings with resonance” proved true in our case: The teenager loved it and found it amazing, while the parents definitely were taken aback a bit.

In general, though, the 21st-century musical is a far cry from what a lot of us grew up expecting from Broadway. This is not “Oklahoma!” or “The Music Man.” Honestly, today’s teens probably wouldn’t get a lot (except maybe some mocking laughs) from those shows.

The cast of “Spring Awakening” at The 5th Avenue Theatre. (Photo: Mark Kitaoka)

‘Spring Awakening’: what to know

“Spring Awakening” continues through June 30 at the Fifth Avenue Theatre in Seattle. Ticket information here.

If you’re considering seeing it be sure to read the content advisory, the expanded content advisory (contains partial spoilers) and perhaps the very detailed sensory advisory. Officially, the show is not recommended for anyone under 14, and I’m pretty sure there are people older than 14 who would be advised to avoid it, too.

Up next at the Fifth Avenue: “Clue,” July 9-21.

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About the Author

Julie Hanson

Julie Hanson is a longtime journalist, South King County resident and mom to a 15-year-old girl.