Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Local Arts Reviews
Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., Feb. 8, 2002
Hedwig and the Angry Inch: Drag on FireZachary Scott Theatre Center Whisenhunt Arena Stage,
through March 17
Running Time: 2 hrs You don't expect for a moment that rock stars are other than manufactured, do you? If not by some MBA-wielding cadre of Corporate Music Producers following a veritable Style Manual of Pop Superstardom, then at least by the would-be stars themselves -- through purposeful exaggeration or codification of their particular quirks of physique or personality or talent. Because, hey, it's a big world out there, with artists (or manques) jockeying for position, each hoping to grab their own share of the globe's fickle spotlight, so you've got to use whatever you've got, and you've got to make it shine, bay-bee.
Well, German-born Hedwig's got an inch. An angry inch. It's the leftover of a botched sex-change operation; it's a member that's now much less of a club but still not quite the requisite concavity necessary for complete vehicular femalehood. Which situation is not the kind of thing an aspiring rock goddess needs to hinder her bottle-rocket ride to success, let me tell you. Or, rather, let her tell you. Because she does: She tells you about her personal history and where it's led, about the American G.I. who married her in Germany then dumped her in a trailer park stateside, about the young man who broke her heart and stole her words & music to become the superstar that she, Hedwig, should have been; about the Whole Sordid Mess.
Depressing? Not from this righteous riot grrrl's kisser.
Andrew Rannells is down from New York City to breathe the fire of life into this incarnation of Hedwig, and he's wonderfully ablaze in the role, soulfully belting out the songs by Stephen Trask, relating the twisted story penned by John Cameron Mitchell, working his high-water booty like a seasoned (beyond the Scoville charts) professional, bantering off the cuff with the audience in Zach Scott's transformed Whisenhunt Arena.
Hedwig's got a sense of humor that's as wicked sharp as her band, the Angry Inch, is wicked good. It's not that you'll laugh, you'll cry, but that you're likely to do both simultaneously (and often) during the run of this hilarious musical spectacle. Dave Steakley has expertly arranged the action, has fine-tuned the performances to maximum pleasure here; musical director Allen Robertson (who shows up on keyboards with the Inch) has assembled what may be the stage's ultimate bar band; everything -- the just-like-a-rock-club lighting of Jason Amato, the hundred-Styrofoam-wig-display-head backdrop by Michael Raiford, Colin Lowry's eccentric videos, and the sweet turn by Susanne Abbott as Hedwig's husband and foil, Yitzak -- smacks of Sixth Street authenticity.
Which is the really cool thing: You have to remind yourself that this is a show about a show. Because the story of Hedwig seems so possible, so true to the weird circumstances of the modern world and its music industry full of semi-fictional constructs, that the idea of it as a fully fictional construct is jarring whenever you remember it. What's manufactured here is aural entertainment with a heart, a keeper of a play about playing for keeps among the winners, the losers, the everyday freaks like you, reader, and me.