Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Matt put it best as we exited the theatre: “What a marathon.” For anyone who takes on the role of Hedwig, that show is a beast. Thirteen songs, basically one ongoing monologue, quick on-your-feet improvisation, physically challenging and exhausting…the works. And as you might expect, Neil Patrick Harris pulls it off. He didn’t win a Tony for nothing. The guy is unstoppable. No matter what is thrown at him, he doesn’t bat an eye(lash). Audience members shout things, and he shouts right back, adlibbing right and left, so much that you don’t know what was already scripted. Although when someone yelled out, and he shot back, “Get outta here, Shia LaBeouf,” you know that’s Neil.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch premiered Off-Broadway in 1998 and won the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical. Last month, it won a Tony for Best Revival. They made a movie in 2001 starring book writer John Cameron Mitchell. And even if you think you don’t know Hedwig, you very well might know the chorus from Wig in a Box or Wicked Little Town. Sadly, due to the absurd Tony rules, since the show is considered well-known enough in the theatre repertoire, it landed in the revival category even though it’s never been on Broadway. This is mainly an issue because it means the creators cannot be nominated for Best Book, Best Score, and Best Musical.

Nonetheless, we can still celebrate Mitchell and Stephen Trask and what they created: this intensely funny, sexual, pushing-the-envelope, crazy rock musical about a transgender German rock and roll singer, Hedwig. It’s a one-night-only rock concert in which Hedwig tells her story, supported by her band, Tits of Clay, and Yitzhak, an ex-drag queen and Hedwig’s husband. The band is great. Lena Hall (who also won the Tony) made me wish Yitzhak had more to do (but that might be the point). She gives a subtle, striking performance, and you relish the moments she gets to sing. The costumes and wigs are fabulous, as is the set and Tony-winning lighting.

A couple disclaimers. If you don’t do well with loud shows, this might not be for you. It’s very much like a rock concert at times, and there is one song with extreme strobe lighting. Also, it might be good to study up on the lyrics in advance. Combined with the accents and volume, I had trouble understanding several parts (luckily there was open captioning that night).

But if you want to see NPH at his best, I’d see if there are still tickets before he leaves August 17th. Not to say the show is not worth seeing without Neil. I would certainly be curious to see another Hedwig; I imagine it would change the entire show. I am positive Andrew Rannells, who steps in next, will be wonderful. He’ll make it his own for sure. Any Hedwig would.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Book by John Cameron Mitchell, Music and Lyrics by Stephen Trask, Directed by Michael Mayer
Belasco Theatre, on sale through October 12th
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus
Pictured: Neil Patrick Harris

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