HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH
Book by John Cameron Mitchell, Music and Lyrics by Stephen Trask
AT&T Performing Arts Center
Directed by Michael Mayer
Associate Director – Johanna McKeon
Musical Staging – Spencer Liff
Music Direction – Justin Craig
Music Supervision & Coordination – Ethan Popp
Scenic Design – Julian Crouch
Lighting Design – Kevin Adams
Sound Design – Tim O’Heir
Costume Design – Arianne Phillips
Wigs & Make-up Design – Mike Potter
Projection Design – Benjamin Pearcy for 59 Productions
Animation – Phosphene/John Bair
Production Stage Management – Jovon E. Shuck
Hedwig – Euan Morton
Yitzhak – Hannah Corneau
The Angry Inch:
Skszp – Justin Craig
Jacek – Matt Duncan
Krzyzhtoff – Tim Mislock
Schlatko – Dylan Fusillo
Reviewed Performance: 2/7/2017
Reviewed by Rachel Elizabeth Khoriander, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I was tasked with reviewing the Hedwig and the Angry Inch national tour, which is currently running at the AT&T Performing Arts Center. I knew the basic premise of the show and expected to be entertained by some good music and energetic performances, but that was about it. I got so much more.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a rock musical masquerading as a concert put on by Hedwig Robinson, a genderqueer East German singer, and her band, The Angry Inch. The music is a combination of glam rock and early punk with a few other influences thrown in for good measure, and the combination is intoxicatingly original. So is the blend of different genres: we’re never quite sure whether we’re watching a rock concert, a drag show, stand-up comedy, a rock opera, or a musical. This inconclusiveness fits nicely with the show’s focus on the amorphous nature of gender identity, which reveals itself through the tragic story of Hedwig’s childhood amid Cold War politics, her botched sex-change operation, and her tumultuous relationship with husband Yitzhak, a former drag-queen, which is further complicated by the fact that a former lover is playing nearby to a packed house, while she is playing on the abandoned set of a recently closed musical to a presumably much smaller crowd.
Opening Off-Broadway at the Jane Street Theatre with writer John Cameron Mitchell in the lead role, Hedwig and the Angry Inch ran for two years and won both the Obie and Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical. A film adaptation came out in 2001, and, in 2014, Hedwig finally ran on Broadway, opening at the Belasco Theatre with Neil Patrick Harris in the lead role and playing to record-breaking sell-out crowds. It was nominated for eight Tony Awards that year and won for Best Revival of a Musical, Best Lead Actor in a Musical, Best Featured Actress in a Musical, and Best Lighting Design of a Musical.
The first national tour, directed by Tony Award winner Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening, American Idiot), began in San Francisco in October of last year and has finally made its way to Dallas, starring Euan Morton, whom avid West End and Broadway fans may remember as Boy George in Taboo, for which he received Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Drama League Award nominations in 2003.
Here, Morton is stunning as the acerbically funny, spectacularly self-obsessed Hedwig. He performs with vitality and passion for the entirety of the uninterrupted 90-minute show, revealing immense athleticism and apparently boundless lung capacity. Equally significant, however, is Morton’s considerable range of emotion. The role of Hedwig, however strongly written, has the potential to fall somewhat flat without a substantial actor.
With Morton penetrating the many facets of the role, Hedwig’s complexity is illuminated and an entertaining, wonderfully scored show becomes a deeply absorbing work of art. Morton’s Hedwig is deeply flawed and indescribably tormented; she is also profoundly beautiful and astonishingly lovable.
Morton seems to access nearly every human emotion available during the show and does so with convincing effortlessness. His voice is sublime and ideal for this role, so it’s difficult to choose any numbers in which he particularly excels (he’s wonderful in all of them), but if pressed I would have to choose “The Origin of Love”, “Sugar Daddy”, “Wig in a Box”, and “Wicked Little Town”. In fact, after the show, I went home and listened to both the original cast and Broadway cast albums and, despite my veneration of the performances of both John Cameron Mitchell and Neil Patrick Harris, decided that Morton is now my preferred Hedwig.
As Yitzhak, Hannah Corneau is tantalizingly distant and dejected. Corneau’s Yitzhak spends much of the show skulking in the background, simmering with a rage that is tempered by tenderness for Hedwig, yet her presence is palpable, her talent is immense, and one cannot help but feel teased by a clearly magnificent vocal range and power that is being suppressed by Hedwig. When Yitzhak is cut off at the end of “When Love Explodes (Love Theme from Hurt Locker: The Musical),” I felt as though I had been punched in the gut, a feeling that I imagine was duplicated in Corneau’s Yitzhak, given the sagging shoulders and scuttling movement. Numbers in which Corneau particularly shines include “The Long Grift” and “Midnight Radio”.
The talented band, The Angry Inch (Justin Craig, Matt Duncan, Tim Mislock, and Dylan Fusillo), shares the stage with Morton and Corneau, providing sterling musicianship, fine back-up vocals, and some comic bits. A moment between Skszp and Hedwig is particularly memorable.
Hedwig’s costumes are outrageous and fun with plenty of color and flash and a few on-stage costume changes. Think torn, paint-splashed denim, sparkling bodices, skirts made out of fur, fishnets, and high-heeled boots. Her wigs are similarly outrageous, hinting at their transformative powers. In contrast, the others on stage are more subdued, but no less glam rock-styled. The Angry Inch band members wear pants embellished with zippers, star decals and animal prints, platform shoes, a mix of patterns and colors, and some lamé on shirts and jackets. Their hair styles are distinctly 80s. Yitzhak wears a more subdued look—a white, collared shirt, loose black tie, black leather jacket, and dark jeans, with slicked back hair and heavy eyebrows.
The overall feel of the technical aspects of the show is 70s and 80s punk and glam rock. Hedwig and the Angry Inch takes place on a theatre stage strewn with the set from a former production (and an eerie Exit sign hanging in the background), which appears to be an artfully reproduced junkyard, though my description hardly does the scenic design justice. The scenic design, lighting, and projections are all mesmerizing, complex, and evoke the spectacle of stadium-filling rock concerts. The set provides many levels for movement, and the lighting changes can be drastic. If you’re sensitive to light, you may need to close your eyes a few times to avoid a headache, but the effects are stunning. Likewise, the sound is spot-on, though the sound level is appropriate for a rock concert. I had trouble hearing the lyrics of the opening number over the band until I adjusted to the sound level, and I had slight temporary hearing loss after the show was over. Those who are sensitive may want to consider bringing ear plugs, though personally, I found the experience so rewarding that it didn’t bother me. In fact, I have not walked away from a show feeling so moved in quite some time, which was, again, unexpected.
So what did I expect? I expected more grit and less heart. I expected more spectacle and less depth. But behind Hedwig’s glitz and glamor, beneath the façade, is an authenticity and beauty that may be hard to see sometimes. Because Hedwig exists somewhere in between—between love and pain, between hope and despair, between loss and redemption. Or perhaps she encompasses all of these seeming opposites at the same time. After all, as Hedwig says in the beginning, it’s all about finding your other half; it’s the story of the origin of love.
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH
AT&T Performing Arts Center
Winspear Opera House
2403 Flora Street
Dallas, TX 75201
Limited run through February 12th.
Thursday and Sunday at 7:30pm; Friday and Saturday at 8:00pm; Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:00pm.
Ticket prices are $20.00 to $175.00, according to seating and performance date. The production will conduct a pre-show lottery for front-row seats before each performance, making a limited number of tickets available at $24 each.
For production information, ticket lottery details, and to purchase tickets, visit http://www.attpac.org/on-sale/2017/hedwig-and-the-angry-inch or call the box office at 214-880-0202.