Zach Theatre's Hedwig and the Angry Inch

This revival gives the trans singer's identity crisis a punk lullaby with rockin' style

Daniel Rowan as Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch (photo by Kirk Tuck)

"Spectacular" is the word that springs to mind at the first glimpse of her (him? her? them? her?). Spectacular, as in drenched in spectacle, can't-take-your-eyes-off-this spectacle. It isn't so much the conveyance carrying this Hedwig in that dazzles (a scooter being hardly the stuff of vehicular grandeur, especially in Austin nowadays); it's the mien of this queerqueen – full-on Glamazon: a Texas sky-blue satin jacket accented with white stars and bedazzled cherry-red lapels and cuffs, the sleeves dripping with fringe like a curtain of extra-long Twizzlers going all the way to her knees; those knees and the long, lean legs they belong to sheathed in black fishnets that disappear in denim cutoffs up top and high-heeled lace-up boots down below. With pastel eye shadow that turns her peepers into twin robin's eggs and buttery tresses that could be melting down fresh corn on the cob, she's a vision of Texas excess – Cowboys Cheerleaders chic meets Best Little Whorehouse at Fashion Week. This is a persona fully and spectacularly formed.

That feeling is only bolstered when this Hedwig speaks and sings, owing to the way Daniel Rowan owns the role in Zach Theatre's revival of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The actor might have shot from the womb wearing this wig and fire-engine lipstick, and he never makes a false step in those stiletto shitkickers, even when punctuating a punch line with a swift shot of one leg up and to the side. The maneuver looks tricky, but just as Rowan makes every bit of his DragFab accoutrement seem part of his own daywear (or evening wear), every move is fully his – and hers.

That also goes for the pain Hedwig speaks of: as a lonely "girlyboy" growing up in East Berlin; as the young bride of a G.I., brought to the U.S. and then abandoned; as the jilted ex whose lover used the music they made to propel himself to stardom while ignoring her; as the victim of a sex change operation that went horribly awry, leaving a scarred mound of flesh between her legs – the infamous angry inch. Rowan conveys the hurt in the bitterness underlying Hedwig's jokes (customized for this show – gags about Austin, Zach, Trump); in the sorrow suffusing the telling of Hedwig's herstory; and in the fury of a punk eruption, with Rowan stripped of Serret Jensen's lush makeup and wigs and Michael McDonald's extravagant outfits, his entire body jerking as if out of his control.

In John Cameron Mitchell's script, Hedwig is trailing her rock star ex, Tommy Gnosis, on a concert tour, performing as near to him as she can. Here, Zach Producing Artistic Director Dave Steakley adapts the idea to have Tommy playing on Vic Mathias Shores, with Hedwig at Zach but forced to play on the set of its family-theatre production of Goodnight Moon. At first blush, the idea seems random and discordant with the musical's in-your-face adult content. But the personal journey that Hedwig shares – her lifelong "search for my other half" – begins in childhood, with innocence shattered. And with each story, each song, something goes away – part of the set, a costume piece – until all that's left is a stage door to leave through. It's as if Hedwig is finally bringing the painful search to an end, resolving her identity crisis by putting Hedwig and every bit of her artfully cast persona to bed. And it feels right.

Goodnight blue jacket

Goodnight room

Goodnight yellow hair

Goodnight Tommy

And goodnight me.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Zach Topfer Theatre
202 S. Lamar, 512/476-0541
Through March 3
Running time: 1 hr., 40 min.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Zach Theatre
A Year Later, the Time Is Right for Another Conversation About <i>Notes From the Field</i>
A Year Later, the Time Is Right for Another Conversation About Notes From the Field
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, Zach Theatre streamed its staging of the 2019 production and led a discussion on Zoom

Robert Faires, June 19, 2020

Zach Theatre's <i>Every Brilliant Thing</i>
Every Brilliant Thing
This production of Duncan Macmillan's solo show gives audiences a reason to live – make that a million reasons

Robert Faires, Feb. 14, 2020

More Arts Reviews
"Andy St. Martin: The Weight" at Prizer Arts & Letters
In his newest show, the artist is, as ever, nothing if not commitment incarnate

Wayne Alan Brenner, Feb. 26, 2021

<i>The Swallowed Man</i> by Edward Carey
The Swallowed Man
The Austin author's rich and strange take on Pinocchio has Geppetto tell the story from the belly of the giant fish

Robert Faires, Feb. 5, 2021

More by Robert Faires
Trust the Process in Gesel Mason's <i>burst!</i>
Trust the Process in Gesel Mason's burst!
In this Texas Theatre & Dance project, students learn to undo

Feb. 25, 2021

"Deborah Roberts: I'm" at the Contemporary Austin
In the exhibition at the Contemporary Austin, we learn what it is to be seen and not seen

Feb. 19, 2021


Zach Theatre, Dave Steakley, Daniel Rowan, Michael McDonald, Serret Jensen, John Cameron Mitchell

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle