My Favourite Musical Songs #12
12. I Don’t Do Sadness/Blue Wind from Spring Awakening (Version included is the 2006 Original Broadway cast soundtrack and performed by John Gallagher Jr and Lauren Pritchard)
Easily one of the most underappreciated musicals of recent times, ‘Spring Awakening’ successfully blends genres in a heartfelt show about the pain of growing up. The score is wonderful, the story packs a punch and the cast do youthful teen angst better than the elderly seniors of ‘Grease.’
The fate of ‘Spring Awakening’ is possibly the most compelling argument I have against jukebox musicals because why did the show barely struggle through a 3 month run in the West End while ‘Mamma Fucking Mia’ just goes on and on and on? Because people know they are getting an easy night with ‘Mamma Most Uninspired Plot I Have Ever Seen Played Out Before My Eyes Mia’ and the like. As ticket prices go up, less people are willing to sit through something without knowing what they are getting.
If they don’t have a well known score or a previously successful name behind the scenes (Trey Parker and Matt Stone of ‘South Park’ and Tim Minchin’s relatively new musicals are making healthy profits) original material becomes well tuned lambs to the theatrical slaughter. There is nothing wrong with wanting to go out and have fun and sing along to Waterloo but it does come at a price, that of the innovative and challenging. I am not saying you have to care but it does make me grumpy. Like that famous internet cat.
‘Spring Awakening’ won some big time Tonys during its original Broadway run and that was how I came to find it. I listened to and watched the medley they were giving me (of the three songs sampled, two of them needed edited lyrics to get past the American TV censors) and I tried to process what I was seeing. And yes. That is a pre-Glee Lea Michele. Without auto-tune or nothin’:
It seemed like ‘Emo: The Musical.’ That was my first impression. All this chat about teens wanting to find themselves sexually and oh life is a Bitch and grown ups are all bla bla bla. Having happily left high school by the time this came out, I wasn’t sure if it was the show for me. But when I tracked down the original material I realised there was more to it than that. Not much more admittedly. But songs about masturbation, wet dreams and first time fucks take on a lot more pathos when set in a community where young people going through adolescence are not given any real explanation for the onset of puberty and the efforts of the elders to keep the children young and in line, leads to impossible tragedy. Not only this but there is abortion, child abuse, rape, secretly gay teens, suicide…All based on a play from 1891 that was banned for many years.
It is quite telling that the play, written by Frank Wedekind and adapted by Stephen Sater, tackles issues that are still very much hot potatoes today. Without touching on any personal details whatsoever, this is a blog about music and Disney after all, my job involves working with teenagers dealing with a lot of the aforementioned issues and the musical does a pretty great job capturing the pain and confusion that comes from not being heard and feeling trapped by your age and lack of power. The staging is inventive, with lots of cool touches like the hand-held microphones only being used for the inner thoughts of the characters and all the adults being represented by two phenomenally versatile older actors. The rock/folk score from Duncan Sheik is effortlessly beautiful and the crossover of the two genres works particularly well in my favourite song/scene.
The context for ‘I Don’t Do Sadness/Blue Wind’ is Moritz plans to shoot himself after a series of humiliations, until a chance encounter with an old friend makes him pause. Ilse fled her home to escape her sexually abusive Father (I never said it was a happy story…But seriously, if ‘Mamma No The Man You Fucked 20 Years Ago is Not Going to Show up And Propose to You Unexpectedly, Move On Mia’ is the alternative, that I would take grim everytime) and is delighted to see him again. Together they start to reminisce about their uncomplicated early childhood. However the fleeting moment between them passes. And their problems remain.
‘Don’t do Sadness’ is a contentious shriek of desperation, ‘Blue Wind’ a melancholic lullaby for an idyllic time, and the melodies are like additional characters: one raging and erratic, the other soft and inviting. They sound brilliant battling one another from 4:22, with the juxtaposing beliefs that things are stuck and that all things must pass. As much as I love a musical theatre vocal, I appreciate that the creative team chose to hire actors who were mostly young and untrained as it adds an authenticity to their angst. Sadly it does mean in the live versions they are often as flat as pancakes that have been ironed, but you can’t have it all.
In short, both ‘I Don’t do Sadness/Blue Wind’ and the musical ‘Spring Awakening’ are a moving and honest approach to the suffering of the young and I genuinely love them. You know what I am NOT so keen on??????
Because why have dignity when you can murder classic disco? Get it while it’s awful!
It made how much at the box office? Pass the gun, Moritz.
OTHER NOTABLE VERSIONS: Despite the relatively short life of the show, there have been some fantastic Moritz/Ilse pairings. Obviously these are all of poor quality. For the record, I don’t condone recording shows but I own a physical copy of the album and if they released it on DVD I would buy it right away…But they won’t. So this is the best I can do.
Blake Bashoff and Emma Hunton, who took over the roles on Broadway after JGJ and LP left are really brilliant without just doing copy cat performances:
I also really appreciate Lauren’s understudy Phoebe Strole:
The British cast had Lucy May Barker and Iwan Rheon who went on to be cast as the psychotic Ramsay Snow in ‘Game of Thrones.’ I guess he was pleased it didn’t run for 10 years then?:
There are lots of examples online of young actors filling their boots with this great material, including some amateur versions now the rights are available. While I really appreciate the work of all the names mentioned above I still reserve the most love for Lauren Pritchard and especially John Gallagher Jr for their superb work as part of the original cast.
BEST BIT: Got to be from 4:22 to the end. Is it rock, is it folk? No, it’s raw human emotion, kids.