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Characters / Spring Awakening

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Characters found in Spring Awakening.

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     Melchior Gabor 
Played by: Jonathan Groff (OBC), Kyle Riabko (First National Tour), Austin McKenzie (2015 revival)

Headstrong, handsome, and charismatic. He knows much more than the others because of what he reads in books. Melchior is the best friend to Moritz, and often finds himself getting into trouble for standing up for his nervous wreck of a friend. He is also a love interest to Wendla. See Unwanted Harem for his other admirers (the whole teenage female cast, bar Martha.)

  • Adaptational Heroism: Downplayed, as Melchior is still flawed in the musical; but in Wedekind's original play he can be portrayed as not wanting anything from Wendla other than sex, the scene where he impregnates her is more easily read as rape, and it's not clear that he feels guilty about it until after she dies from the botched abortion.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Just before "My Junk," all of the girls swoon over Melchior's intellect, atheism, and most of all his general lack of caring.
  • Big "NO!": On discovering Wendla's freshly-dug grave. Often repeated by the Groff (and Austin McKenzie), but other Melchiors just went for one.
  • Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: Though Moritz is far more brooding of the two male heroes, Melchior certainly has some Byronic characteristics, particularly in contrast with Wendla's gentleness and innocence.
  • Grief Song: Mourns over Moritz in "Left Behind", and then grieves over his death again along with Wendla's in "Those You've Known", with their ghosts by his side.
  • Hands-On Approach: Even after giving him a graphically detailed manual, Melchior tries this in teaching Moritz sexuality lessons during "Touch Me."
  • Hollywood Atheist: Contrary to his culture and era's staunch Christianity, Melchior is an atheist, as well as a careless cynic and believer in free love.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Driven to Suicide after finding out about Wendla's death and being reminded of Moritz's own suicide when his ghost appears, only to be stopped by Wendla's ghost appearing too.
  • "I Want" Song: Establishes his critical perspective on society and his aim to go against the norm in "All That's Known."
  • Pretty Boy: Melchior is traditionally played by slender, attractive actors with a defined bone structure.
  • Survivor Guilt: Expresses this for Moritz in "Left Behind," and once again for Wendla just before "Those You've Known," so much so he considers suicide.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Starts out as a cynic doubting his faith in God, loses his best friend to suicide and his love interest to a botched abortion, is sent to a boarding school where he's bullied relentlessly, and attempts suicide himself. "Those You've Known" suggests that this earns him Iron Woobie status.

     Moritz Stiefel 
Played by John Gallagher Jr. (OBC), Daniel Durant and Alex Boniello (2015 revival)

Melchior's insecure best friend whose dreams of women haunt him to the point that he is too afraid to fall asleep. He is disgusted by his new sexual feelings and his inability to control them. As this is the 19th century, he is terrified to even speak of such things aloud, and asks Melchior to write down the knowledge he needs and to slip it into his satchel after Gym class.

  • Abusive Parents: His dad beating him, verbally abusing him, and kicking him out of his own home for failing an exam is one of the reasons of his suicide.
  • Adults Are Useless: Many ways for Moritz. Firstly, he is made to fail by Herr Knochenbruch and Fraulein Knuppeldick, then is kicked out of his home by his own father who beats him AND, if that wasn't enough, is then refused his thousand bucks to escape to America by Melchior's mother whom shrugs off his problems.
  • Anime Hair: A real life example, as John Gallagher Jr. famously sported a funky looking hairdo that would get more and more messy looking as the show went on. Many other productions have done the same since.
  • Ate His Gun: The stage directions specifically call for this.note 
  • Clueless Chick Magnet: Doesn't seem to realize Martha's feelings for him, and it's ambiguous how much he picks up on Ilse's.
  • Cry Laughing: Some incarnations have Moritz do this during, appropriately, "Don't Do Sadness".
  • Driven to Suicide: He passes his exam only for the school to deliberately fail him, his father kicks him out, his plan to run away to America falls flat, and finally, he finds himself unable to reciprocate Ilse’s advances despite beating himself over for his fear of sex throughout the show.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: To a certain extent, for Melchior. His funeral produces one of Melchior's most emotional moments, the Grief Song "Left Behind", but for Melchior's closest relationship in the play he's turned aside pretty quickly when being accused of causing Moritz's suicide spurns the largely comical "Totally Fucked". Sadly, this is fairly representative of their whole relationship, including when Moritz was alive.
  • Ghost Song: He and Wendla appear to Melchior as ghosts. They float out of their graves and everything.

     Wendla Bergmann 
Played by: Lea Michele (OBC), Sandra Mae Frank and Katie Boeck (2015 revival)

An innocent, friendly young woman. A childhood friend to the others and eventual love interest to Melchior. She opens the musical with her song "Mama Who Bore Me", searching for answers to the questions she has about life.

  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Played with. She admires Melchior's bad boy traits with her girl friends, and, to an extent, is even more attracted to those traits once they have their first real conversation since childhood. However, what launches their relationship is his validation in her questioning their conservative society, and while this still shows shades of teenage rebellion, it also has a lot to do with him being the only person who allows her to be more than The Ingenue her parents had strictly raised her to be. But then he exploits her innocence himself, indirectly causing her death.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Averted. Wendla talks about her dreams of building a better world with Melchior for their future child in her letter, but she dies from a botched abortion soon after.
  • Break the Cutie: Wendla starts out as a relatively cheerful girl who admires herself in her white, "fairy queen" dress. This doesn't last long, however, as she starts to question the world around her; namely, her rape and botched abortion, which eventually lead to her death.
  • Ghost Song: "Those You've Known", and arguably to some shade "Whispering". The latter seems as if Wendla is predicting the consequences of her actions and eventual death.
    Wendla: See the father bent in grief/The mother dressed in mourning/Sister crumbles, and the neighbours grumble/Preacher issues warning.
  • Hidden Depths: Despite being defined by her innocence, Wendla's deep-seated frustration towards her mother preserving her as such comes in early on in the show ("Mama Who Bore Me" and the reprise), as well as her intellectual observations on society surprising Wise Beyond Their Years Melchior, as they happen to corroborate with his own ideas. And of course, there's her whole motive behind the beating scene:
    Melchior: Wendla! You can't envy someone being beaten.
    Wendla: But I've never been beaten—my entire life. I've never...felt...
    Melchior: What?
    Wendla: Anything.
  • The Ingenue: Wendla's virginity and excessive naïveté drives much of the plot: it's played for drama in that it is directly correlated to her rape and later pregnancy, and it's exploited by her parents who desire her to continue to remain one.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Has a moment when she teases Martha without knowing of her abuse:
    Wendla: (about Martha's braids being a nuisance) Tomorrow, I'm bringing scissors.
    Martha: For God's sake, Wendla, no! Papa beats me enough as it is.
  • Pajama Clad Heroine: Although, because of her... anemia. It is what she appears in in "Those You've Known" as it is what she probably died in. She changes into her normal clothes for "The Song of Purple Summer."
  • Purity Personified: Throughout her tragic narrative, she has experiences that would normally result in Innocence Lost, but she manages to hold on to her idealism and goodness throughout it all, even in death.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Gets pregnant from her rape, which has partly to do with her mother never giving her proper sex education.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: She is virtually Purity Personified, and is killed by, in short, a combination of her mother's lies and being sexually taken advantage of.
  • Trauma Conga Line: In the beginning, she's mostly just a curious girl who's naive to a fault but ultimately pure and kind. Over the course of the show, she gets beaten by the boy she likesnote , raped not long after by the same boy, learns the exact results of such an act the hard way despite asking her mother for sex-ed from the very beginningnote , and is forced into a back-alley abortion, which finally leads to her death.
  • Virgin in a White Dress: Starts off the show changing into a white dress to highlight her purity and innocence.

     Ilse Neumann 
Played by: Lauren Pritchard (OBC), Krysta Rodriguez (2015 revival)

A childhood friend of the group. She is seen as a sign of something that could happen to Martha if she speaks out about what happens to her at home. Ilse is portrayed in "The Dark I Know Well" as an echo of what Martha is going through; Ilse was beaten and sexually abused by her father, and Martha is at the time of the song. Martha yearns to escape, and we never actually learn if she does. Ilse now lives in an artist's colony named Priapia with the Bohemians, but the girls think of this as no way to live for their fallen friend.

  • Abusive Parents: Her father's sexual abuse is the reason for her running away, and the horrible condition she endures in the artists' colony serves as a warning for Martha, another victim of Parental Incest, if she were to do the same thing.
  • Innocence Lost: The never-ending abuse she endures has made her alarmingly indifferent to otherwise traumatic experiences:
    Ilse: Until this morning, when he woke me with a gun, set against my breast. He said: "One twitch and it's the end." Really gave me the goose bumps.
  • Love Triangle: Type 3 with Martha and Moritz. She and Martha have feelings for Moritz, who can't quite handle his feelings for anyone.
  • MacGuffin: The flowers she carries are, you guessed it, purple summer flowers—the name of the song of redemption and new life that Ilse leads the whole cast in at the end of the show. But before this and when Moritz rejects her, she runs back to Priapia. These flowers become the flowers the teenagers place on Moritz's open casket one by one, and the actress playing Ilse must drop them in an exact place as she runs off.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Subverted—it looks like Ilse is going to play this role to Moritz as a free-spirited runaway and artist's model who doesn't (seem) to let life get her down, but it doesn't exactly work out.
  • Parental Incest: The reason for her running away, and a plight that she shares with Martha.
  • Pirate Girl: She fondly reminisces over the times when she imagined herself as this when she, Wendla, Melchior, and Moritz were all still children.
  • Quirky Curls: Most renditions of Ilse have this, beginning with Lauren Pritchard.
  • Rape as Backstory: She runs away to escape her sexually abusive father, but she ends up getting abused by the men in the artists' colony as well.
  • Stepford Smiler: Most incarnations have her smile and be playful despite all the terrible, terrible things happening to her.
  • Sexy Shirt Switch: For her last scene with Moritz, she wears nothing but a man's white shirt. Less sexy when you consider she's a teenager, and who that shirt belongs to.



     Hanschen Rilow 
Played by: Jonathan B. Wright (OBC), Andy Mientus (2015 revival)

A very humorous, almost arrogant classmate of the boys. An effortless perfectionist who easily seduces Ernst.

  • All Gays Are Promiscuous: Hanschen is by far the most overtly forward and flirtatious character in the play.
  • Anything That Moves: One interpretation of his character due to his flirtatious nature, his bisexuality, and this line in "The Bitch of Living":
    Hanschen: It's like, just kiss some ass, man—then you can screw 'em all
  • Bury Your Gays: Averted. He and Ernst survive the play completely intact (if by virtue of disappearing from the action for a bit when Melchior's story comes back into focus) and the original play was strongly censored because it did not show the boys as criminals receiving inevitable punishment. (As well as, y'know, Wendla's rape and... the general plot.)
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: During his spoken section of "My Junk", accompanying the thought of murdering a girl. Jesus. (The murder part is sorta compulsory, though, since he's masturbating to a depiction of Desdemona).
  • Deadpan Snarker: Just how deadpan varies between actors, but his lines in Moritz's "I passed" scene are all snide remarks that come off as if he's hoping Moritz fails, and even Ernst triggers this when he rambles on about becoming a country pastor.
  • Double Entendre: Utilizes this a lot for seduction purposes:
    Hanschen: (suggestively, to Ernst) We'll huddle over the Homer. Maybe do a little Achilles and Patroclus...
  • Foil: To Melchior. Both are striking, charismatic young boys who hold power and maturity over their respective significant others. Though Hanschen is typically played as more comical than Melchior, he, at the very least, is more conscious of his partner's consent or lack thereof than the latter.
    Ernst: On my way here, I thought perhaps we'd only talk.
    Hanschen: (pulling back) So, are you sorry we-
    Ernst: No, I love you, Hanschen!
  • Urban Legend Love Life: Though it's never explicitly stated, Hanschen's behavior and language heavy with double meanings suggests he presents himself as something of a casanova, though the girls seem more interested in either the rebellious Melchior or brooding, neurotic Moritz. Possibly, they view him as a Handsome Lech; perhaps he never actually invests in seducing his female classmates at all. Only once do we see him in action, and he is quite successful.

     Ernst Robel 
Played by: Gideon Glick (OBC), Joshua Castille and Daniel David Stewart (2015 revival)

A naive classmate of the boys who falls deeply for Hanschen's seduction.

  • Abusive Parents: In the 2015 revival, Ernst follows along silently in sign language throughout "The Dark I Know Well," implying he too was molested or raped as a child.
  • All Gays Are Promiscuous: Averted with Ernst who is pure, wholesome, and almost childishly enthusiastic (his solo in "Touch Me" notwithstanding). His monologue before "The Word of Your Body (Reprise)" says it all:
    Ernst: Sometimes...I imagine myself as a country pastor. With my red-cheeked wife, my library, my degrees...Boys and girls, who live nearby, give me their hand when I go walking...
  • Foil: To Wendla. Both are kind, innocent adolescents only just beginning to mature who are seduced and get, to an extent, taken advantage of by their more mature love interests.
  • Transparent Closet: At least to Hanschen, who's baffled at the idea of Ernst becoming a married pastor.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Revealed to be of this variety when he describes his future country pastor dreams not long after the suicide and subsequent suspension of his classmates, and gets called out for it by Hanschen.

     Georg Zirschnitz 
Played by: Skylar Astin (OBC), Alex Wyse (2015 revival)

Another classmate who lusts after his older, busty piano teacher Fraulein Grossenbusterhaulter.

     Otto Lammermeier 
Played by: Brian Charles Johnson (OBC), Miles Barbee and Sean Grandillo (2015 revival)

Another classmate. He dreamt of his mother, as Melchior humorously reveals to Moritz in an effort to help him relax.


Played by: Remy Zaken (OBC), Amelia Hensley and Lauren Luiz (2015 revival)

One of Wendla's friends, a girl who tries to brush her feelings of sexual desire under the carpet to please adults. She tries to understand Martha's problems after she reveals them by saying that her Uncle Klaus says that "if you don't discipline a child, you don't love it." Martha simply replies with "Well, that must be."

  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Clearly stated when she's talking about Melchior, stating that he is "Such a radical!".
  • Girlish Pigtails: In the OBC along with Martha and Anna, probably to emulate a more youthful look.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Teases Martha about her braids with Wendla without knowing of her abuse, and is shown to be fairly ignorant in general as she tries to rationalize Martha's situation.
  • Single-Minded Twins: The revival provides an interesting example of this in its introduction of Melitta, Thea's hearing twin who doubles as her interpreter and also as a result, her voice.
  • Skewed Priorities: When Ilse reads Melchior's letter he sent her, she has this reaction:
    Thea: Poor Melchior..
    Anna: Poor Wendla.

     Martha Bessel 
Played by: Lilli Cooper (OBC), Treshelle Edmond and Kathryn Gallagher (2015 revival)

One of Wendla's friends who is abused sexually by her father. She unwittingly reveals feelings for that "sad, soulful sleepyhead Moritz Stiefel" much to the dismay of her friends. She is not a major character, but shows her friends her bruises from her father. As songs in this musical are considered inner monologues, it is shown that she can't tell her friends the whole story.

  • Broken Bird: From the information she tells us of her life in "The Dark I Know Well", she clearly is one.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Gets teased by her friends for her concern over them, only for her to reveal that her father beats her if she doesn't keep her hair a certain way.
  • Lonely Together: She and Ilse are a platonic version; "The Dark I Know Well" ends on the two of them alone on stage, clinging to each other until the lights black out.
  • Love Triangle: Both Martha and Ilse have feelings for Moritz.
  • Minor Character, Major Song: "The Dark I Know Well" is her only major appearance, but it certainly is an important one. Many fans who have suffered abuse approach Martha's actress after the show to thank her.
  • Parental Incest: While she's able to open up to her friends about her father’s physical abuse, she's too ashamed to talk about his sexual abuse. She goes into this in detail in “The Dark I Know Well”, along with her frustration of having no control over the situation.
  • Rape as Backstory: She is a victim of Parental Incest, which she describes in "The Dark I Know Well", along with Ilse.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Could be seen as an inversion of a tomboy to Wendla's girly girl.

Played by: Phoebe Strole (OBC), Ali Stroker (2015 revival)

Another friend of Wendla's.

  • Composite Character: It's implied that she's Marianna Wheelannote  in the revival.
  • Girlish Pigtails: In the OBC along with Thea and Martha, presumably to give the actresses a more youthful look.
  • Nice Girl: A nice, sensible girl who cares a lot about her friends.

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