FLASH FRIDAY: All Sewn Up! HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH Gets Glam For Broadway Debut
Raucous, riotous and risqué rock musical HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH is an anomalous theatre piece truly like none other and today we celebrate its premiere Broadway production in honor of previews kicking off this weekend for the new 2014 edition starring Neil Patrick Harris.
The Origin Of Love
"Don't you know me? I'm the new Berlin Wall, baby - try and tear me down!" the titular character of John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask's decadent one-man-and-a-band rock musical HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH snarls before launching into the explosive and propulsive opening number, "Tear Me Down", at the start of the show. Idiosyncratic in not only its overall sound and style, but also its structure and tone, HEDWIG is a rich sampler for fans of rock music, with winks to a wide range of notable elements evocative of a certain era of music history (roughly mid-70s through late-90s rock n roll), all expertly conjured in Trask's sensitively composed and astonishingly insinuating series of songs. The Iggy Pop-esque "Angry Inch" reverberates with wild abandon, while the head-knocking "All Sewn Up" takes it up another notch still. Comparatively, the subdued Tom Waits-ish styling of "The Long Grift" and near-John Lennon-like "Wicked Little Town" provide appreciable juxtaposition to the louder moments, as does the Brecht & Weill-flecked "Hedwig's Lament". Lou Reed is certainly written all over many musical moments, as well - just as it should be, given that Trask himself has cited BERLIN and NEW YORK as major influences on the piece and its attitude and overall sound. Then, too, the Plato-inspired lyrics and driving music for "The Origin Of Love" forms a pop/rock masterpiece all to itself. Plus, who could deny the outrageous comedy and heart-tugging pathos implicit in performance pieces such as "Wig In A Box" and "Sugar Daddy"? Then, there is "Midnight Radio" - a fiercely ferocious call to action (and call to caterwauling, in this case). It's a masterful score with few if any equals in the musical theatre realm, undoubtedly one of the most striking and unforgettably touching realizations of a song cycle as has ever been seen onstage; as theatre, concert or otherwise. Without a doubt, HEDWIG packs a plosive punch to the cranium - and rips out your heart while blowing out your eardrums in the process. It's visceral, complex, dense and highly stacked in its ambitions and by its conclusion fulfills the promise of being, unquestionably, the best rock musical of the last 20 years, if not ever.
Following the success of the original Off-Broadway production in 1998 - itself an extension of a experimental rock theatre piece born on the stage of downtown club Squeezebox a few years before - and highlighted by a near-irreproachably magnetic lead performance by author John Cameron Mitchell, next came the subsequent 2000 feature film adaptation shepherded by Mitchell and Trask. Then, oh so poetically, rock royalty itself paid tribute right back to HEDWIG byway of a 2003 charity album titled WIG IN A BOX: SONGS FROM & INSPIRED BY HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH. With that release, the fictional admitted rock-obsessed transsexual German ex-patriot at the center of the story and score was finally given her full due at long last - complete with impressive and inspired contributions from Rufus Wainwright, Cyndi Lauper, The B-52s, Ben Folds, Yoko Ono and even Stephen Colbert. Furthermore, the release boasted a new song composed for a proposed sequel to HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH, now finally reaching final stages of development, in the eerie and absorbing Nirvana-tinged dirge "Milford Lake", performed on the album by Mitchell and Trask themselves. Surely, no truer sonic expression of Hedwig's oft-tortured inner soul could be created than the sounds of Lauper's siren call final notes at the conclusion of "Midnight Radio". A cry to Heaven itself - and to Hell. After, HEDWIG is all about learning to embrace both sides of everything.
HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH presents Neil Patrick Harris with a Herculean challenge, acting as more or less the frontman of the band and the emcee for an entire evening's entertainment while also offering him a precise and tricky acting challenge, as well. And, that's not even mentioning the high heels and hair (the character's name does have the word wig in it, after all)! Yet, if anybody could ever fill Mitchell's stilettos it is undoubtedly one of Broadway's brightest and biggest stars - filling a Broadway house multiple times a week in the process - and all eyes and ears are aimed at NPH this weekend as HEDWIG finally arrives in style in Manhattan. But, will she find herself there - and her other half, too? We shall have to stay tuned to our midnight radios to know.
Blood, Graffiti & Spit
So, now, let's relish some highlights from the rich history of HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH as we look ahead to Neil Patrick Harris kicking off previews of the new production on Broadway this weekend.
First up, John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask return to very the roots of Hedwig by performing at Squeezebox in 2008.
Next, view this clip of the closing performance of HEDWIG Off-Broadway in 1999.
Now, see Mitchell, Trask, Miriam Shor and company perform "Midnight Radio" live at Wigstock 1998.
Mitchell and company enact "The Origin Of Love" on THE ROSIE O'DONNELL SHOW.
After that, peruse largely animated "The Origin Of Love" sequence as seen in the very faithful film adaptation.
Check out the full trailer for the feature film version below.
Sample this amusing sing-a-long promo for the film, too.
Get a glimpse of Anthony Rapp as Hedwig in this promo for a Hartford Stage production.
Go behind the scenes of the new Broadway production of HEDWIG with this new featurette featuring Trask, NPH and more.
Lastly, view the promotional trailer for HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH on Broadway.
As a special bonus, preview Neil Patrick Harris trying out some HEDWIG material at a recent Mercury Lounge gig with the actual band set to accompany him on Broadway, Tits Of Clay (featuring Lena Hall).
So, what exactly is it about the wild rock sounds and incomparably outre style of HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH that makes it such an important musical theatre mainstay? Furthermore, what does the musical have to say to an audience, now, in 2014, that it perhaps did not back in 1998? Additionally, what is your absolutely favorite element of the enterprise as we know it to date? Whatever the specific reason for partaking, a celebration of HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH is always worthwhile if only for the chance to once again experience one of the smartest, coolest and most touching musicals ever created, whether in a tiny little theater in a small Midwest town or in a hallowed theatrical house on the Great White Way.
Hey, New York City: she's here, she's queer, she's near - get f*cking used to it.