BWW CD Reviews: Atlantic Records' HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH (Original Broadway Cast Recording) is Perfect
With glowing reviews from all the major outlets in New York City, a slew of Tony Nominations, and wins for Best Revival of a Musical, Best Lead Actor in a Musical, and Best Featured Actress in a Musical, I expected Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Original Broadway Cast Album) to be spectacular. And, it truly is. It captures the tour de force performance given by the talented Neil Patrick Harris eight times a week at the Belasco Theatre, makes listeners fall entirely in love with the rocking Lena Hall, and makes me want to camp out on West 44th Street to ensure that I can score a rush ticket before Neil Patrick Harris departs the production on August 17, 2014.
To be honest, I've never seen Hedwig and the Angry Inch in any of its various formats. The film has floated on my periphery as a must-see cult classic, but I simply haven't gotten around to it yet. Despite this embarrassing lack of cultural education on my behalf, I have been familiar with a handful of the songs for quite sometime. Stephen Trask's music and lyrics caught theatergoers by the heart in the late 90s when the show first appeared off-Broadway. The 2001 film expanded the fan base, and in Neil Patrick Harris' capable hands Stephen Trask's infectious, witty, and poignant work has beautifully blossomed into a cultural phenomenon that is beloved by many the world over.
The recording showcases the skill and dexterity of Justin Craig's Music Direction. Every lyric is sung with emotional precision, allowing the poetry of Stephen Trask's lyrics, which range in scope from smartly crafted metaphors to visceral sexual innuendos, spring to life in a way that moves the listener. The only qualm I have with the recording is that it wasn't recorded live on stage in the Belasco Theatre. This is not to say that the energy isn't high on the recording, but compared to the performance I saw on the Tony Awards, I feel that the rigors of repeatedly singing the same section or even singing numbers out of sequential order in the studio sucked some of the electricity from the vocals. Yet, this works in the favor of the production as well because audiences know that the live experience will only surpass that of the recorded experience.
As Hedwig, Neil Patrick Harris is simply superb. This role, this musical, and this recording are exactly what he was meant to be doing. Even though Hedwig wasn't specifically written for Neil Patrick Harris, listening to the album, it is easy to believe that she was. Each of the songs he sings are sung with such perfection on the disc that there is no denying that Neil Patrick Harris has found a natural and legitimate connection to this fascinating character. As the music pours out of our speakers, Neil Patrick Harris delights and astounds listeners with every well-articulated syllable and every rollicking and raucous note. With longtime favorites from the score like "Wig in a Box" and "Midnight Radio," Neil Patrick Harris offers renditions that feel organic and fresh. With songs like "The Origin of Love," "Sugar Daddy," "Angry Inch," and "Wicked Little Town," audiences can revel in his emotional versatility of the character as we rock out to the perfectly recreated musical stylings of the bygone androgynous 1970s glam rock era.
However, Neil Patrick Harris is not the only one who impresses audiences on the disc. It would be easy for Lena Hall as Yitzhak to be overshadowed, but she doesn't allow that to happen. Singing mostly back up, she is a powerhouse on the album. She wails away with a ferocity that crawls under your skin in the best of possible ways. On her solos, "When Love Explodes" and especially "The Long Grift," Lena Hall is phenomenal. She performs with such enthusiasm and charisma that she elevates these moments in such a way that you can't help but take notice of them and fall completely head over heels in love with her vocal skill and sumptuous rawness. By the time she commands us to lift up our hands on "Midnight Radio," listeners joyously do what they are told, even if it draws strange looks from the other passengers on the uptown 1 train.
As The Angry Inch, Hedwig's band, Justin Craig on Guitar, Keyboards, and Vocals, Matt Duncan on Bass, Guitar, Keyboard, and Vocals, Tim Mislock on Guitar and Vocals, and Peter Yanowitz on Drums and Vocals all turn their performances up to 11 and give listeners everything they could want from a rock n' roll band performing a rock musical score.
Whether you've seen Hedwig and the Angry Inch a million times or never seen it at all, there is no justifiable excuse for not owning Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Original Broadway Cast Recording). Theatrical recordings honestly aren't any more perfect than this one.
Atlantic Records digitally released Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Original Broadway Cast Recording) on June 11, 2014. Physical copies of the album were released on July 1, 2014. The recording can be purchased from iTunes, Amazon, and elsewhere music is sold.
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH opened on March 29, 2014 at the Belasco Theatre, 111 West 44th Street (Between Broadway and 6th Avenue), New York City, New York 10036. Tickets are currently on sale through October 12, 2014. For tickets and more information about the show please visit http://hedwigbroadway.com/ or call (800) 432-7250.
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