Just got back from the Cal Poly Performing Arts Center and saw the traveling version of the Tony Award-winning musical “Spring Awakening.” The musical is based on the 1891 play by Frank Wedekind—which was understandably banned in Germany at the time. Based upon the musical, I’d be a little surprised if the play was performed just about anywhere prior to 1960.
That’s not to say that the musical is obscene—it’s certainly not by contemporary standards; not even close. If you were to film it and put it in a movie theaters, it would probably be a soft R and being a little creative with the camera angles you could probably get it down to PG-13.
The musical is a bildungsroman (I write, dipping into my store of words that I never got to use in my previous life as a journalist and oddly apropos in this case, it being based on a German play) about a group of boys and girls growing up in late 19th Century Germany and facing all of the universal issues that come with growing up—sex, school, religion, child abuse, incest and how societal and cultural norms affect adolescents.
Let me preface my brief note on the quality of the musical and the actors itself with this brief statement: There’s a reason why I almost never reviewed books, movies or theater during my journalistic career. It’s too tough for me to be critical. I once reviewed a little dinner theater production of “Barefoot in the Park” in Lompoc and absolutely loved it. Let me write that again. It was dinner theater in Lompoc and I loved it.
That being said, I loved this production too—and I realize this was about 1 million times better than Lompoc dinner theater.
The music, the singing, the acting, the voices were all superb. If the show is coming to a city near you, I absolutely encourage you to go.
To quote the great Bill Cosby: I told you that story so I could tell you this one.
Poking through the program bios, Elizabeth Judd’s jumped out at me.
Elizabeth is thrilled to be a part of Spring Awakening! She studied musical theatre at CAP21 Conservatory in NYC and Collin College in hometown Dallas, Texas. Love to her family, friends, teachers, and Lynn Shaw. John 19:30
It’s that last bit that got me thinking: Wha?? I honestly can’t recall ever seeing an actor put a Bible verse in their bio.
Judd plays Wendla, the female lead, and suffice it to say, that if you were to pick a role in this musical least likely to be played by a Christian, it would be Wendla, closely followed by the male lead, Melchior.
In the lobby, you’re warned that there’s partial nudity. And I must confess when I see that, my first thought is that I’m going to have to look at some guy’s hairy butt. For the record, here that consists of Wendla’s breasts and Melchior’s butt.
Yes, the only person in the program up front and open about her faith is also the one showing some skin and getting groped.
And amidst all of the great music and really emotionally and intellectually heavy issues playing out on stage, I’m sitting there in the front row during intermission, trying to figure out how I feel about that.
The easy intellectual way out is to declare that she’s not really a Christian—but that’s obviously not the case for a number of reasons.
Former “Growing Pains” star Kirk Cameron is probably one of the most famous, devout (and famously devout) Christians in the entertainment industry today—and if you were still in diapers when that TV show went off the air, you probably couldn’t identify the guy in a lineup. God may have bigger plans for Judd (and boy does she have an incredible voice) and this is the path he’s laid out. But the line is obviously in a different place for Cameron than it is for Judd.
With that contrast in mind, I’ve spent the past few hours trying to reconcile these seemingly contradictory facts and have come to the conclusion that I should probably just stop trying.
I’ve little doubt that Christ has called Judd to be where she is today. God needs Christians not among the saved, but among the sinners.
If nothing more, I think Judd’s public expression of faith has given me hope—and will give others hope—that Christians can have an effect on the entertainment industry.
Say a prayer for Elizabeth Judd.