They say “good things come to those who wait.” That pearl of wisdom might be intended for the production of the rock musical “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” After 15 years of off-Broadway revivals that spanned the globe, this highly anticipated event finally hit New York City in March 2014. With all the fan-ware and numerous awards in tow, the first of perhaps many Broadway revivals of this show has been an undeniable success.
It certainly didn’t hurt the show’s introduction to Broadway when it was announced that Actor Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser, How I Met Your Mother) had signed to join the cast through August 17, 2014. Since the opening reviews, Hedwig and the Angry Inch has remained one of the hottest tickets in town. The show has played to sell-out crowds on a regular basis.
This incredibly diverse rock musical follows the troubling and confusing exploits of Hedwig (Harris), as he/she tells his/her life-story to the audience using punk, glam songs. As her story goes, Hansel, soon to be Hedwig, was an East German man who falls in love with U.S. soldier, Luther Robinson and wants to follow him back to America. Hansel was a rather confused soul who dearly loved glam rock music (checkout David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Twisted Sister). Before he immigrated, Hansel had a sex change operation in order to comply with man/woman marriage laws. When the surgery was botched, Hedwig was left part woman, part man.
In America, all was well until Luther left Hedwig, who turned to her love of music to sooth the pain. She eventually starts her own Glam band and names it The Angry Itch. Hedwig falls in love with a shy song-writer, stage name “Tommy Gnosis”, and they become composers in every sense of the word. When he leaves her high and dry, he becomes a huge rock star on the back of her words, her music, her songs. Her own career never quite takes off and she is left a kind of rock-star playing little bars and clubs with her frustrating boyfriend Yitzhak, played brilliantly by Lena Hall.
Overall, the production is rather intimate. The audience is watching the stage as Hedwig and the rest of the cast, mostly her band, travel from club to club in the same cities being toured by her lost love, Tommy. Hedwig’s story is tragic enough to illicit some sadness, but ultimately laughter at such a ridiculous happen-stance. Most reviews are quick to point out how much is done with such little production. The glam costumes (by Arianne Phillips) and makeup (by Mike Potter) invoke memories of the 1980s punk scene, while the sound (by Mike Potter) and lighting (by Kevin Adams) create a classic 1980s rock concert feel.
The trans-gender theme has recently become more popular and acceptable on Broadway and the big screen. It keeps Hedwig from making people a little uncomfortable. There aren’t many multi-talented individuals who can pull off this kind of role, but Harris nails it as both a man and a woman. His creative genius and past experiences made the transition between the two genders far too easy. The audience is left pulling for a character much to complex to understand.
The play, written by John Cameron Mitchell, is based on some personal experiences. The music and lyrics were provided by Stephen Trask, who writes lyrics that work well to tell about the trials and tribulations of the transgender population. It’s hard to imagine any composers who can write such a creative tribute to a lifestyle they will probably never experience. All aspects of the production are brilliantly orchestrated by Director Michael Mayer. Mayer correctly allows the production of the show to ride on the shoulders of one of America’s most popular TV stars, Harris.