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June 10, 2009

'Spring Awakening' awakes in Baltimore

In my other capacity, I caught the national touring production of Spring Awakening that arrived Tuesday night in Baltimore.

I think a little too much has been made of the music in some circles. The songs are only remarkable for their lack of melodic distinction, but everyone in the case approaches the material as if it were by Sondheim, and that helps sell the whole show. Anyway, I've got a few more things to say in my review, in case you're interested.

Posted by Tim Smith at 11:19 AM | | Comments (2)


You're absolutely correct -- the music, in particular, is _unremarkable_. In fact, it's incredibly bland, generic "rock on stage" stuff that just screams "I wanna be _on_ Broadway, but I don't wanna _be_ Broadway, get it?!" Ugh. The whole "work" is like a bunch of bubblegum-pop-ballad cast-offs and Green-Day rejects, with lyrics that set my eyes a-rollin'. Short of the "story" holding it all together, nothing flows. I certainly wouldn't call it any sort of "evolution" or "step forward" in the world of musicals. (If it's anything, then it's a step either _backward_ or toward a weird, forgettable tangent.)

If this is the kind of work that wins a Tony, then I can't say the expectations are set all that high.

Really? I found the songs VERY melodic, catchy, and hummable. Not like Sondheim at all. It's a beautiful, wonderful, and most importantly--FUN show.

Fun isn't exactly the word that comes to mind, given the suicide and death-by-botched-abortion in the plot, but, hey, maybe I'm just being too serious. Anyway, I still find the melodies uninspired. I suspect the composer got the chords down first and then tried to write the melodic lines. To my ears, they simply don't measure up to the work of great tunesmiths. I expect more from a hot musical. As a total experience, though, I appreciate the show a lot, and tried to make that clear in my review. Thanks for the comments.

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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