Sunday, May 4, 2014

A Well Worth Long Trip to Broadway for Hedwig

Walking into the Belasco Theatre where Hedwig and the Angry Inch is playing and one can feel the energy - that something amazing is happening every day in this space. But it's not the first time that Hedwig has caused such a commotion. The show ran for two years from 1998 to 2000 in a small Off-Broadway Theatre and has actually spent the last 16 years with productions all around the world. Created by John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask, the show has had a cult following for most of those years and was even turned into a film in 2001. The excitement of that earlier time was that Mitchell was performing the title role and singing the amazing score by Trask. He and Hedwig were one in the same.

That 16 years later, that show could end up on Broadway with new faces coming to see the baby of those two is incredible in and of itself. That an Off-Broadway show that some believe should be in a dive bar in the village can be embraced by the Broadway community is yet another amazing feat. We've witnessed other rock musicals move into the 'mainstream' with Rocky Horror and Tommy, but a musical about a German transgendered rock and roll singer with a botched sex change doesn't seem like the kind of shows Rodgers & Hammerstein would write for the Great White Way. But boy, this gender-bender experience is an event NOT to be missed. 

Everything about this production is perfection. And it shows with the amount of nominations it is collecting during awards season. The staging, the lights, sound, costumes, projections, set (which has been changed for Broadway to be on the fictional set of the musical version of the Hurt Locker), direction by the always brilliant Michael Mayer - there is not one single weak link in this production. I always marvel when small shows, basically told in monologues can grab an audience and convey a powerful story - and this one does not disappoint. The angry inch band (all onstage) are Rock and Punk and everything loud rolled into one. And songs that are memorable with lyrics that cause you to feel for the character of Hedwig. And her husband Yitzhak (played by the Tony Award nominated Lena Hall) is in a word…magical. That woman has been on the boards for several shows, but man she gets to shine in this one playing a man. What a powerhouse of a voice and I'm thrilled the Tony committee has remembered her with a nomination.

But many of the new faces coming to see Hedwig are coming because of the man now donning the wig made famous by John Cameron Mitchell and that is Neil Patrick Harris. He's had quite a career in film, TV, stage, hosting numerous awards shows. I've actually seen him in four other stage productions, but believe he has found his role with the glam goddess Hedwig. He embodies her - and I wasn't sure I'd buy someone other than the original who had written the show. But I bought him COMPLETELY in the role as he immerses himself in her. With a commitment and connection not always seen on stage. And he does back-to-back shows on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon/evening. Everything feels natural and new. As if experiencing it for this 'one-night-only' performance that he is sharing. His hosting skills have paid off as he talks to the audience, never being thrown by what comes back. He is honest and raw. Calculating and captivating. Changing voices as he shares his story to become each character. Working up a sweat (and must be working off pounds) as he runs all over that entire stage in some pretty high heels. And he has the audience in the palm of his hand right where we all belong. Well done, Mr. Harris.

I'd say go see this, but I doubt you can get a ticket. It's the hottest show in town and the hardest ticket to get. But if you do - treat yourself to the wild world of Hedwig (and don't forget to look for the Hurt Locker Playbills left around. I got mine!)