I never, ever thought I'd see someone masturbating center stage at the Palace Theatre, but simulated acts of self-love make up just one entry in the parade of racy transgressions blowing through town in Spring Awakening.

I never, ever thought I'd see someone masturbating center stage at the Palace Theatre, but simulated acts of self-love make up just one entry in the parade of racy transgressions blowing through town in Spring Awakening. Audiences will be titillated, repelled or at least taken aback by the partial nudity, incest, simulated sex and non-simulated same-sex kiss in the eight-time Tony winner, but it's most remarkable characteristic is a raw energy you just don't find in shows that make it to Broadway.

Working from a controversial 1891 play by German writer Frank Wedekind, Duncan Sheik and playwright-lyricist Steven Sater keep the time period but concentrate on the work's universality, and craft a radio-friendly rock score performed by a real band, completely unhampered by exposition-filled lyrics and over-trained voices.

The band's on stage throughout, and audience members in bleachers flank the action. They're seeded by cast members in street clothes who occasionally rise up to sing harmonies with the central cast: teenage lovers Melchior (Kyle Riabko) and Wendla (Christy Altomare), tortured misfit Moritz (Blake Bashoff), their school friends and an interchangeable rotation of elders (Henry Stram and Angela Reed, playing all the adult roles).

As the youths struggle with feelings, situations and sticky emissions they don't understand nearly as well as the shame hammered into them by parents and teachers, Bill T. Jones' choreography expresses their frustration and longing in a shared, haunting series of movements.

In the more thankless roles, Stram and Reed would be served to tone it down just a bit. But the three leads in Broadway Across America's touring production are exceptionally strong (Bashoff, in particular, blows the cobwebs off the medium), and there isn't really a weak link to be found among the younger supporting players.

While Broadway has had its pop hook-ups, a substantial relationship has never developed, until Spring Awakening. Here's hoping it's for the long haul, that the play's title applies to the future of musical theater, as well.