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


Tony Tony Tony: A Recap

Tony Awards

So I know I’m beyond behind on my reviews, but I figure we should take a moment to discuss Sunday night’s Tony Awards. Did you watch? DVR it for later? I got comfortable in my pajamas and sat back to enjoy an evening of theatre. Here’s a brief look at my take on some of the highs and lows of the evening.

HIGHLIGHTS 

Jessie Mueller! Carole King! A wonderful performance and a much-deserved win for Miss Mueller as Best Leading Actress in a Musical. I haven’t even seen the show, and I love her! I do admit that I was also deeply rooting for Kelli O’Hara as it was her fifth nomination and she certainly deserves it after all these years. Perhaps next year for The King and I? Nonetheless, Jessie has been taking the theatre community by storm ever since On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. I’m stoked for her and can’t wait to see Beautiful.

Three words: Idina. Effin. Menzel. Well, let me back up. First there was Jonathan Groff’s brilliant introduction, and then the house was subsequently brought down with her If/Then 11 o’clock number. And yet, people haven’t been talking about it! I did not see my Facebook or Twitter feed freaking out afterward. Weren’t you watching, theatre fans? Honestly, in my eyes, this may have been the performance of the evening.

Also, let’s rejoice for Best Musical A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder – a fantastic performance and an even more hilarious introduction by Jefferson Mays. Let’s hear it for the underdog of the season actually getting its due with its multiple wins.

Cabaret and Alan Cumming? Solid of course.

James Monroe Iglehart’s praise shout.

Lena Hall’s heartfelt speech.

I also want to give a shout-out to Sutton for always being glorious.

And that Hedwig performance?? Yes! I’m so excited to see it in a few weeks!

And perhaps the ultimate highlight of the evening: Audra. Tears. Will Swenson. Tears. Standing ovation. More tears. Making history in two ways. For those of you who don’t know the momentousness of Audra’s win on Sunday for Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, she is now the winner of the most Tony awards. She had five, tying with Angela Lansbury and Julie Harris, and now she has a whopping six, on top of the fact that she is now the only person who has won in all four performance categories! Audra McDonald = Queen of Broadway. Can she host next year?

LOWLIGHTS

Clint Eastwood and whatever that presenting was supposed to be.

The opening? I’m sorry, I just wasn’t into it. I do like how so many shows had cameos, and the awkward elevator ride with NPH was delightful, and I understand that they likely didn’t bother with a “traditional” opening number because it could never compete with last year’s. But seriously – Hugh Jackman just bouncing the whole time? Yes, I know it refers to something specific, but we’re really going to take an obscure reference and make it the centerpiece of a four-minute opening number? C’mon Tony writers, you can do better than that. You want more people to tune in? Don’t lose them in the first few minutes!

Sting, I’m bored.

Aladdin’s Friend Like Me was like watching a seizure on stage. And listen, if the funniest part of the song is when the Genie stops to sing from different Disney movies, then I think there’s an inherent problem with the show. People out there who want to spend money on Aladdin? I’m just saying – that’s the best you’re gonna get. They played their best hand on Sunday, so if you didn’t enjoy that number, you might want to reconsider your options.

Zach Braff’s hair.

I thought ROCKY was a musical. Also? Shortest fight ever.

This has been a common rant on Facebook and everywhere else so I won’t digress too long, but I will say I too am tired of the out-of-place Hollywood actors presenting. I love you Tina Fey, but why are you up there and not a Broadway vet? It’s all to improve ratings and get viewers, right? Well, ratings were lower this year. Maybe they should focus more on the theatre community and what we do best and feature more performances from the current season instead of a Music Man rap with LL Cool J and T.I.? Sure, The Bridges of Madison County closed, but couldn’t we get a song with Steven and Kelli? Anyway, more on that and the recent Tony Award Administration Committee ruling in a later post.

All in all, it was a relatively smooth evening without too many hitches, and we got to see some great numbers (go here to watch the rest of the performances). Here’s to another season of theatre!


Long Time No Blog

The Understudy Rehearsal

First, let me say: please excuse my absence these past couple of weeks. I have shows to share with you and drafts piling up, but we are very much closing in on the opening of The Understudy. Hence, my brain capacity is at its max. So allow me to stray from a typical review for the moment to simply say hello and share a few tidbits.

Hello!

Have you seen the Annie trailer yet? There’s this one with song and dance and another one I saw in theatres that pretends it’s not a musical at all. You gotta admit – that’s smart marketing to get some other folks in the seats. What are your thoughts on the cast? Mainly Cameron Diaz and Electro? I’m trying not to have any pre-conceived notions. It’s coming out this Christmas along with Into the Woods. Much to discuss. We’ll check back in about the latter though once there’s a real trailer released.

Tony nominations were announced on April 29th, which means we are quickly approaching one of my favorite days of the year (aka Tony night). What did you think of the nominations? Any snubs that really bothered you? Poor Daniel Radcliffe; that’s three snubs for him now. I was particularly excited that Outside Mullingar got recognized, and all of the Twelfth Night nominations made me quite happy. I’m eager to see what happens with some of those intense competition categories.

I’m seeing Hedwig and the Angry Inch on July 1st! Just a heads-up: it is POPULAR, and it’s only going to get crazier once it starts collecting Tony Awards on June 8th. So if you have any interest in seeing it and/or NPH, get your tickets now. When Matt and I went to the box office last week to buy ours, they were already sold out through the end of June.

Here are the reviews that will be coming your way soon: Murder for Two, Mothers and Sons, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, and perhaps another Spotlight on TV!

And lastly, a brief moment of self-promotion if I may: The Understudy is one week away! Performances are at The Secret Theatre from Wed, May 28 through Sun, June 1. It was officially announced on Theatremania today! Get your tickets here, and enter the code KAFKA by this Friday at midnight for discounted tickets. I’m so excited about this production and incredibly proud of everything we have accomplished in such a short time. I love this play, and I think you will, too. Hope to see you there.

The Understudy
Written by Theresa Rebeck, Directed by Jenn Haltman
The Secret Theatre, May 28 – June 1
Photo Credit: Jeff Schneider Photography
Pictured: Brian Byus and Becca Schneider


A Tony Award Forecast

So with the Tony Awards now very much in sight, I have received a handful of requests for a “Tony Prediction” post. I’ve been hesitant to share my predictions (in print anyway), but here are a few thoughts on what to expect and why you should tune in this year.

What I’m most excited for this season is that there is not a clear winner in the works. Unlike a couple of years ago when everyone knew The Book of Mormon would sweep, or even last year with ONCE, this time around we have a true race between two new shows for Best Musical, Matilda and Kinky Boots. I have not yet seen Matilda at the Shubert, but I did get a chance to see it in London last spring, and I absolutely loved it. I saw Kinky Boots several weeks ago, and it’s like musical theatre candy; the audience eats it up. Personally I’m rooting for Matilda for the big win, but here’s how I think some of the awards will break down.

Word on the street is Best Score will go to Kinky and Best Book will go to Matilda. Best Direction I think will be swiped by Diane Paulus for Pippin. Remember Pippin? Yeah, that’s the big sweep of the year for revivals. It should grab Best Revival, Best Direction, Best Choreography (Chet Walker), Best Actress (Patina Miller as Leading Player), and Best Featured Actress (Andrea Martin as Berthe). It may even take Best Featured Actor (Terrence Mann as Charlemagne), but that’s a tight race between Terrence and Gabriel Ebert as the father in Matilda. For Best Actor in a Musical, it’s a race between two men in drag: Bertie Carvel as the evil Principal in Matilda and Billy Porter as the fabulous Lola in Kinky. My money’s on Billy.

As for plays, I’m thinking Best Play will go to Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang, which I saw last night (go see it immediately. You’ll laugh your face off). Best Revival will likely go to Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, but The Trip to Bountiful may make some surprise appearances. Tom Hanks will probably walk away with Best Actor for Lucky Guy, although I would like to see Nathan Lane win for The Nance. For Best Actress I don’t know what’s going to happen! I personally want to see Kristine Nielsen win for Vanya, but I only saw two of the nominated performances so I’m honestly not informed enough. I wouldn’t be surprised if Judith Light wins for Best Featured Actress in The Assembled Parties, and Best Featured Actor expectations are mixed. I really didn’t see enough of the nominated plays this season. Instead I was at The Heiress. Ugh.

This is starting to rattle on so I’m going to stop here, and I haven’t even covered all the lighting, scenic, and costume design, not to mention sound design and orchestrations. But no matter who ends up taking home the awards on Sunday night, it’s really about seeing the great performances of new and old shows, enjoying a hopefully fantastic opening number with host Neil Patrick Harris, and celebrating a night of theatre. So tune in to CBS on Sunday at 8pm ET.