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    Controversial broadway play shows nudity, masturbation, & more, of 17-22 yr olds

    New York - Teenage sex scenes showing a naked breast, masturbation and sadomasochism aren't the usual Broadway fare, but Spring Awakening has become the surprise hit musical of the season while being hailed as tastefully erotic.

    Adapted from German playwright Frank Wedekind's then-scandalous 1891 play, Spring Awakening looks at the angst of high school students and their sexual awakening in repressed 19th-century Germany.

    With song titles such as The Bitch of Living and Touch Me, the show opened on Broadway last month to glowing reviews that compared its contemporary rock song score to that of the prize-winning Rent. Its run was recently extended.

    When considering a Broadway musical, "probably nobody thinks: pure sex. That might just change," said New York Times critic Charles Isherwood, calling the show "a straight shot of eroticism" as it tastefully deals with provocative topics such as abortion, homosexuality and abuse.

    "Spring Awakening' makes sex strange again, no mean feat, in our mechanically prurient age," Isherwood said.

    Scenes between the lead male and female characters include an erotically charged one in which she encourages a spanking with a wooden plank, leading to the exposure of a bare breast.

    Similarly, one of the secondary characters displays homosexual longings and comically sings and masturbates centre stage, surrounded by dancing females.

    Trials of puberty

    Critics and the show's creators, playwright Steven Sater and composer Duncan Sheik, said the show is less about sex than about staying true to teen spirit. The cast members are 17 to 22 years old.

    "It touches something deep that is resonant in all of us, which is our own adolescent experience," said Sater, who persuaded Sheik to write the music after meeting him chanting at a Buddhist gathering and writing the lyrics to Sheik's third album.

    Neither feared the sexuality would leave audiences aghast.

    "There is nothing exploitative about it. It simply shows what it is like for these young people to go through the trials of puberty," Sater said.

    Sheik, 37, gained fame for his 1996 hit pop music single Barely Breathing. He said he composed the musical after becoming disillusioned with his early success.

    "Our culture in general has a real acceptance and even love of violence and a real fear of sexuality that is troubling, and that is one of the things Spring Awakening addresses," he said.

    Teenage angst

    While the show's longer-term success may lie in whether it can seduce traditional theater-goers and a younger audience, both men say they already have an avid fan base.

    "I just got an e-mail from a 15-year-old boy who was going through a lot of teenage angst," Sheik said. "Every day he puts on The Bitch of Living and jumps around his room screaming at the top of his lungs."

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