It was one of the West End’s great mysteries that this superb musical, based on Frank Wedekind’s milestone 1896 Expressionist drama about adolescent angst and sexuality, had such a short run.
This won’t be the last revival to remind us that it’s the best American rock musical since Rent and, before that, Hair. Students from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, directed by Andrew Panton, do it much more than proud.
Duncan Sheik’s music sounds fresh, melancholic and raw, stripped right down, while Steven Sater’s book and lyrics are faithful to Wedekind, full of misery and anger.
The boys are in short trousers and modern hair styles, the girls in loose-fitting smocks, the band ranged behind a fenced off school room of desks and a simple ramp. Repression and hypocrisy are rampant in tales of teenage suicide, pregnancy diagnosed as anaemia, peer group pressure, friendship, ghosts and redemption. If you’re not in tears at the end, you can’t be alive.