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Today we are toasting the newest titular star of multi-award-winning Broadway production of rock musical HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH, Andrew Rannells!

Lift Up Your Hands

Filling the iconic stilettos of original co-creator and star John Cameron Mitchell in the unique and edgy theatrical experience known as HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH is daunting even today, more than 15 years after the outrageous character first sashayed her way onto the stage of downtown club Squeezebox, yet stepping into the part immediately following internationally recognized (as opposed to "internationally ignored" Hedwig, that is) multi-media star Neil Patrick Harris in his 2014 Best Actor In A Musical Tony Award-winning role? That takes balls - and, as the case here most certainly must be, some seriously feminine ways and wiles as well. The man for the job is none other than original THE BOOK OF MORMON lead and rising TV/film star Andrew Rannells, who has previously displayed a considerable command of comedy and drama as well as shown off major singing chops, as well. But, taking on a performance piece as demanding as HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH without a doubt is makes for a decidedly whole other ball of theatrical wax - or, maybe make that: ball of hair.

Grand, grunge, impossibly glamorous; bitchy, brusque, fearlessly bold; off-the-wall, original, altogether outré - Hedwig is all of these things and many, many more. Intriguing, complex and heartbreaking - those, too. To top it all off, the actor performing the role must almost single-handedly gain, hold and keep the rapt attention of the audience through a dozen songs and countless monologues and character moments throughout the course of the evening - making it a veritable dramatic collision course, frought with potentially even insurmountable hurdles. Big risk, big reward. Greek tragedy to borscht belt comedy to John Waters-esque grit and Oscar Wilde-tinged wit, with a heavy helping of pathos, HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH encapsulates a dizzying array of performance styles in what it demands of its star, to boot. Yet, what makes a Hedwig truly stand out from the rest - and what a motley crew that is - is what unique characteristics the actor brings to the role himself.

Following originator John Cameron Mitchell and Broadway leading man Neil Patrick Harris, essayers of the titular star showcase include Tony Award-winner Michael Cerveris, movie star Ally Sheedy, current IF/THEN player Anthony Rapp, musical theatre regular Kevin Cahoon and many more over the years. Each and every one of them brought an unmistakable flair and energy to their performances - and all were wildly dissimilar in how they approached and performed the material, too. What Rannells conceivably could offer the role that few others can is his outright adorable playfulness as well as his winning turn of sarcastic phrase, not to mention a powerful and versatile vocal instrument. Since Rannells only opened in the show last night, he is undoubtedly Broadway's newest leading man with all the eyes of the Great White Way upon him as to how he will navigate the complexities of the drama, highs of the comedy and depth of emotion intrinsic to the wholly one of a kind theatrical piece as it exists. Not to mention, Rannells has already played the part before in a 2002 regional production. Judging from his stellar work in THE BOOK OF MORMON, HAIRSPRAY and JERSEY BOYS onstage, as well as his memorable performances on TV in the hit HBO comedy GIRLS and the NBC series The New Normal - not to mention his guest-starring gig opposite Neil Patrick Harris himself on the long-running How I Met Your Mother - plus BACHELORETTE and other films onscreen, Rannells has shown that he has got all the ingredients at his disposal to make not only a good Hedwig, but one that really cooks - with gas; and not just laughing gas, either... tear gas, too.

For even more on Andrew Rannells, check out my extensive 2012 InDepth InterView available here.

We Believe

So, now, let's take a look at some stage and screen highlights from the career of Andrew Rannells.

First up, see Rannells take on "The Origin Of Love" from HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH live in 2011.

Next, Rannells joins with fellow crossover theatre stars for a hilarious medley at the 2013 Tony Awards.

Now, Rannells shines with "I Believe" from THE BOOK OF MORMON on the 2011 Tony Awards.

After that, THE BOOK OF MORMON's Josh Gad interviews Andrew Rannells.

Also, sample Andrew Rannells in the Broadway cast of JERSEY BOYS.

Take a look at Andrew Rannells in his Broadway debut, HAIRSPRAY.

Get a glimpse of Andrew Rannells on NBC's THE NEW NORMAL.

Andrew Rannells discusses his recurring role on HBO's GIRLS.

Rannells performs the Joe Iconis standout "Kevin" live.

FUNNY GIRL favorite "The Music That Makes Me Dance" gets a gender-switch courtesy of Andrew Rannells.

Plus, Rannells sings Sondheim's classic "Being Alive" from COMPANY. Could Bobby be a fitting future part?

Lastly, check out the new commercial for HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH starring Andrew Rannells.

As a special bonus, check out this funny recent The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon clip featuring Rannells.

So, what special traits do you think Andrew Rannells will bring to the title role in HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH? Furthermore, what has been your favorite performance of his that you have witnessed thus far? With so many hit properties on his resume and such astounding skill as evidenced in his turns onstage and onscreen thus far, it appears as though HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH has found a worthy heir to the impossibly gilt-laded and glittery throne of the reigning queen of Eastern Berlin bloc rock.

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From This Author Pat Cerasaro

Pat Cerasaro contributes exclusive scholarly columns including InDepth InterViews, Sound Off, Theatrical Throwback Thursdays, Flash Friday and Flash Special as well as additional special features, (read more...)

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