‘Spring Awakening: Those You’ve Known’ review: Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele reunite in HBO documentary celebrating the series and its stars

The main hook involves a cast reunion in 2021 in the form of a one-night benefit concert for the Actors Fund, 15 years after its debut. This includes seeing not just the performance, but its preparation, intercut with footage from the musical’s past and a discussion of its profound impact on those who have flocked to it.

The most moving thread, however, involves Groff, who was not yet gay at the time, and Michele, who started the “Awakening” workshop at the age of 14, practically grew up on stage and is fell in love with him, before the two became lifelong friends.

Even now (or rather then), Groff is caught crying when he sees Michele singing again, and remembers being honest with her in front of the rest of the world. A month after leaving the show, he said, “I came out of the closet and started my life. »

Before that, however, this documentary captures the highs and lows of the “Spring Awakening” experience, from the sheer audacity of pairing a 19th century story with contemporary music to concerns about the show’s sexuality and challenging themes (molestation, abortion, gender identity and suicide) while working with very young actors.

As the highs and lows go, there are some great glimpses of the rock star status the cast achieved once the project migrated to Broadway and cleaned up at the Tonys. And yes, it followed what everyone thought was a disastrous essay, further proof of screenwriter William Goldman’s maxim that when it comes to success in showbiz, nobody knows anything.

Considering some of the criticism Michele received from former ‘Glee’ bandmates, which prompted an apology, the sequences featuring her and Groff are both humanizing and fun, as they frankly address logistics. uncomfortable from simulated stage sex and his curiosity about women. anatomy.

Directed by Michael John Warren, “Spring Awakening: These You’ve Known” also addresses how the show’s themes have resonated among younger audiences in a way that, in some ways, given the current cultural debate , seems even more relevant and timely now. .

So while the documentary focuses on the young actors and their particular experience, it simultaneously explains why this is one of those productions where each generation seems destined to have its own “awakening”.

“Spring Awakening: Those You’ve Known” premieres May 3 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO, which, like The News, is a unit of WarnerMedia.

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