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Arts and Entertainment

LAist Recommends: 'Spring Awakening'

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Photo of Kyle Riabko and Christy Altomare in Spring Awakening by Paul Kolnik / Courtesy of Center Theatre Group.

If you loved, loved, loved Cats, then you might want think twice before seeing Spring Awakening, which opened last week at the Ahmanson. But for those who can relate to any one of the following themes: teen angst, love, lust, parental oppression, child abuse, sex, masturbation, yearning for enlightenment, then head straight for the Music Center. Pronto.

While the story’s set in 1800s Germany, the music by Duncan Sheik (yes, the “Barely Breathing” guy) is all-American rock n’ roll. There are several other components of the play that blur the line between time periods – and the line between audience and cast. First, you can buy tickets to sit onstage among the actors. Secondly, the four chorus members are dressed in street clothes, not period costumes like the main cast. And thirdly, during a few of the numbers, the cast sings directly to the audience, sweeping them into the lives of the German teenagers just struggling to deal. With life.

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The cast is a fairly strong one: Leading men Kyle Riabko and Blake Bashoff both have strong – albeit different – singing voices. Riabko (who from a distance looks like fellow Canuck Hayden Christensen) has the traditional good looks and brings the rebel Melchoir to life, brooding better than Anakin Skywalker ever could. But Bashoff (who’s best known as Ben’s daughter’s boyfriend Karl on Lost) brings a raw energy to the stage, reflected in his Eraserhead-like ’dos. Leading woman Christy Altomare (Wendla) keeps the trio grounded by exuding the naiveté of her character.

While the songs may not be as catchy as other Broadway shows, there are certainly a few standout numbers, including Wendla's show opener "Mama Who Bore Me," about her longing to learn more about the ways of the world--and the body's nether-regions. (Now we couldn't help but think of a recent 90210 episode that had the female cast members rehearsing this song and thinking how progressive West Beverly High really was!) The number, however, that drew the biggest round of applause was the entire company singing about those times when you're caught between a rock and a hard place: The high energy "Totally Fucked" blew the audience away.

Yes, the play shows a little skin, simulated sex blah blah blah. But if you don't mind and can get past all that, you'll thoroughly enjoy the trials and travails of these German school kids - which so similar to the trials and travails of say, kids from BH 90210 and elsewhere.