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A substitute for love: the performance of sex in Spring Awakening

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In Words and Music, Lehman Engel cites romance as a primary need of the musical, claiming that the genre requires romantic love as a narrative modus operandi. By his charge, love and romance drive plot and give characters a reason to sing. Sex, on the other hand, curtails what romance encourages and is therefore less requisite. Despite Engel's misgivings, several notable musicals have used song and dance to discuss or depict sex acts between adults. Representations of teenage sexuality, however, have been more infrequent and significantly more veiled. Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik's Spring Awakening is the first musical to offer direct representations of adolescent sexuality. This study examines the ways in which Spring Awakening uses both song and dance to represent and deploy teenage sexuality. Through its unique aural and visual vocabulary, Spring Awakening allows its adolescent characters to sing and dance their sexual desire, and in effect perform sex.

Keywords: Lehman Engel; Rock music; Sex; Spring Awakening; Teenage sexuality

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Missouri.

Publication date: 2009-12-01

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  • Studies in Musical Theatre is a refereed journal which considers areas of live performance that use vocal and instrumental music in conjunction with theatrical performance as a principal part of their expressive language.
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