BWW Reviews: Lower Ossington Theater's HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH is Loud, Electric, and Shocking
Cult classic HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH is making waves on Broadway right now with Neil Patrick Harris, so Torontonians will be happy to know that they can catch a production of the edgy rock musical. The Lower Ossington theater is currently staging its own production of the musical about an East German transgender singer who fronts a fictional rock and roll band. The high-energy story tackles emotional plot points as the story goes on, as the audience learns that Hedwig, formerly Hansel, suffered a botched gender reassignment surgery in order to wed his love, a U.S. soldier Luther, who wanted to move out of communist East Berlin to America. The two reside in Kansas, untill Luther leaves Hedwig for a man.
The Lower Ossington Theater provides the type of intimacy you don't find with large theaters. It boasts two separate theatre spaces where different show are staged, however all the action is on the same level right in front of you. The LOT utilized a lesser-used room on its premises for HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH that is complete with a bar, a small stage, and a couple of tables. Sitting down one may think they are getting dinner and a show, but in reality they are sitting down for the craziest rock concert of their life.
Nathaniel Bacon takes the stage as Hedwig and covers ground for all other characters, as Hedwig spends the concert doing a lot of venting and even more singing. Bacon takes on not only the role of Hedwig, but through his narrative provides personalities for the people Hedwig has come across in her life. His ability to transfer vocally between Hedwig to other characters may be his most impressive quality, save for his ability to expertly perform all of Hedwig's songs with such high energy and strong vocals
The show is structured as if the audience is attending Hedwig's concert and the venue choice only maximized this effect. As Bacon belts out Hedwig's iconic tunes "The Origin of Love," "The Angry Inch," "Midnight Radio" and more, you feel like you are experiencing a Hedwig concert.
While the LOT's staging for the show is perfectly suited for this concert-styled musical, the sound suffered from the venue size. Ultimately the intimacy provided by the small space highlights the emotional effect of the show, but the loud music and bright lights take some getting used to. This in a way works in favour of the show, as there is a sense that there is a discomfort intended as Hedwig opens her heart to her audience who knows little about her. Hedwig's passion and talent is overwhelming at first; the show comes on strong with its loud music and bright lights but once Hedwig takes it down a notch to get "real" with the audience she creates an intense with her audience and she becomes more than a fabulous rock star.
Hedwig discusses her failed relationship with Luther, and now famous rocker Tommy Gnosis. We learn Hedwig turned to prostitution untill she began babysitting for Tommy. The pair began a relationship and started performing music together untill Tommy embarked on a solo tour. The story is expertly intertwined into Hedwigs concert as she alludes to a parallel concert by Tommy where he continues to ignore how she gave him his start in music.
Nathaniel Bacon is the star of the show in so many ways. To take on the role of Hedwig, one needs to know how to command a stage. They need to know how to make audiences laugh and cry. Ultimately, you need the audience to care and be invested in your story and boy does Nathaniel succeed in this. His comedic timing is impeccable, as his line delivery has the audience roaring with laugher. Similarly, his emotional monologues as Hedwig has audiences quiet and tearing. Bacon makes the audience feel every emotion, as he tells Hedwig's story with an effortless confidence.
Kit Boulter shares the stage with Bacon as Yitzach. The two gender bend in a way that is mindboggling and with open peoples minds. Bacon channels feminine mannerisms and ways of moving while Boulter not only nails masculine traits but rocks some serious facial hair. The pair's shocking chemistry carries the show; their comedic back and forth leaves audiences laughing, and their dysfunctional relationship keeps the audience guessing. Stellar costuming and makeup helps to amplify the unique characters. Dully noted, Bacon's bravery to don a skirt is rewarded by his unfair yet impressive ability to rock a mini skirt.
Bacon steals audience's hearts immediately with the quirky "Origin of Love" but by the time Hedwig's concert comes to a close with "Midnight Radio," the audience's emotions are high. Bacon takes the audience on a roller coaster of emotions and leaves them with their minds reeling.
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH is a show for the edgy who enjoy a musical that is a genre all on its own. The rock music, larger than life characters and the emotional yet hilarious story line will reel in audiences and open their minds.