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InDepth InterView: Stephen Trask Talks HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH, Neil Patrick Harris, Sequel Details, New Musicals & More

Today we are talking to the gifted composer and lyricist behind the earth-shattering score for Broadway's biggest recent hit, HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH, the versatile and passionate Stephen Trask. Shedding considerable light on the development of the idiosyncratic rock musical, Trask discusses his influences and the organic way in which the outré show developed from humble beginnings at downtown bar Squeezebox in the mid-1990s, to Off-Broadway hit at the turn of the new century all the way to the rapturously received feature film adaptation, and, now, the 4-time Tony Award-winning 2014 Broadway production. Trask also details his affection for recently crowned Tony-winning lead actor Neil Patrick Harris and the replacement leading man donning the titular wig, Andrew Rannells. Additionally, Trask also shares news on the forthcoming sequel to HEDWIG currently being developed with John Cameron Mitchell and teases some of what we can expect from the hotly anticipated theatrical experience as well as comments on other HEDWIG rarities. Furthermore, Trask reflects on his own upbringing and musical influences and how that informed the composition of the score for HEDWIG, as well as his own favorite performers. Plus, Trask reflects on his fruitful career as a movie scorer in Hollywood and offers the 411 on his upcoming musical endeavors, including two original stage musicals - JUST THE BLACK KEYS, a real-life inspired original musical potentially involving Peter Askin and Michael Mayer, as well 15 MINUTES, a Studio 54-centric period piece written with Rick Elice - as well as much, much more. Note: This interview was conducted while Neil Patrick Harris was starring in the production.

More information on HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH on Broadway is available at the official site here.

Sugar Daddy

PC: Was it edifying to receive such rave reviews for HEDWIG now that it has finally reached Broadway? Are you chuffed?

ST: [Laughs.] To be honest, all I could think about was that bizarre Rex Reed review. When I woke up and read that review the first thing I did was texted our publicist and said, "Can I put that on a t-shirt?!" It was so weird. But, wouldn't it be funny to have a fake quote from him in the fake HURT LOCKER Playbills and then send it to him?

PC: Brilliant.

ST: In fact, originally, there was a quote that I wrote from a review in there that I credited to him, but John [Cameron Mitchell] was like, "Don't put it in. He hates us so much already, he'll probably sue us!" [Laughs.]

PC: What was the quote?

ST: Well, as you know, in there, there's the ad for the fake musical JUKEBOX: THE MUSICAL - "All the songs you know, sung by people you've never heard of" - and the review quote for him was, "Put another nickel in!"

PC: That's hilarious.

ST: "Put another nickel in, because you'll want to see JUKEBOX: THE MUSICAL again and again!" Obviously, nickel being the joke.

PC: What are your thoughts on critics in general? Has their time simply passed and they've been more or less replaced by the internet?

ST: Well, for Rex Reed... he was a has-been and a joke back when he was on THE GONG SHOW....

PC: 40 years ago.

ST: A lifetime of THE BOYS IN THE BAND. But, anyway, yeah, the day after the opening we were just reading that review to each other all day long and just cracking up.

PC: It's almost poetic that HEDWIG got one bad review and a spate of raves.

ST: I know - and it's him! It's just so pathetic - and funny. Also, I think it's interesting that people said things like "'Wicked Little Town' is the best Broadway love ballad of the last 20 years," when, you know, nobody has displaced it since the 90s.

PC: It just took 15 years for the world to catch up, apparently.

ST: You know, it's kind of weird - when we started out, there was hardly a place for us, and, now, it's 15 years later and we're merely on the edge - which is a fine place to be. I like that - I like being on the cutting edge - but I think that we were enough ahead of the curve back then to still be ahead of the curve now.

PC: The original edition of the show somewhat spoke to the future and this new incarnation speaks to the present, or the nearer future.

ST: I actually was working with theatre people recently who had no idea what my work was - like, people devoted to theatre music who had no idea what my work was. They'd never heard anything I've done.

PC: And, yet, if you mention some of the movies you've been associated with - like LITTLE FOCKERS - everyone knows them.

ST: Right. Right.

PC: How did you manage to get Yoko Ono to attend opening night?

ST: Yes! Yoko came! About 7 or 8 years ago, I got a call from Yoko and her manager and they wanted to meet with me. It's even weirder than that, though, because before that somebody that is one of her assistants said to me, "Yoko wants to meet you," and he was somebody that I had a crush on from way back at the Beatles convention I went to when I was a kid and he sang "Beautiful Boy" and I thought he was so sexy. Years later, there we are, having dinner with Yoko, and she asked me to be her musical director. I know she had been doing a lot of gigs and they were pretty experimental and not a lot of rehearsing, so, I was like, "I wanna see a real Yoko concert!" You know, like I saw at the Beacon in 1985. It was so spectacular - I sat right near Andy Warhol!

PC: Wow.

ST: It was very, very, very cool. It was a real show, too - and that's the type of thing I wanted to do. I said, "OK, let's get a real band and do 5 days of rehearsal and Yoko needs to come to 3 of them and we will pick the set-list ahead of time. It's going to be a lot of her songs and if she hasn't done them in a while then we will have lyric sheets." So, we did it - we went out and we were headliners at the Pitchfork Music Festival and it was f*cking magic. It was amazing.

PC: And she had already done the HEDWIG tribute album before that.

ST: That's right. "Hedwig's Lament". I remember she told me I write like The Beatles and then I cried - and then years later I was asked to be her music director. We had the best time. So, yeah, to answer your question - to have her there at the opening of HEDWIG on Broadway... [Sighs.]

PC: It meant a lot.

ST: I mean, I choreographed a dance in high school that I wrote that was inspired by and dedicated to Yoko Ono. It means everything. I have been a fan of hers for so long.

PC: Was that your first original theatrical piece shown to an audience?

ST: Yeah, that was pretty close to the beginning, I think - that was probably my first solo piece, and I dedicated it to Yoko. Of course, nobody got it, so I guess I did my job. [Laughs.]

PC: Too apt!

ST: She called me after the show, too, and said, "It's an American classic! It will run for 10 years!" And, you know, there I am in the stairwell talking on my phone and everyone overhears me saying, "I love you, too, Yoko!" [Laughs.]

PC: Everything came full-circle.

ST: And, I was invited to come back and hang out at her apartment - at the Dakota. She wanted me to bring members of the band with me, too. But, of course, I had to do press for HEDWIG, so... it's like: both of your dreams come true simultaneously and you have to pick one; literally, within 15 minutes of each other.

PC: Do you want to have a more pronounced presence in the theatre community now after doing so many films after the HEDWIG movie came out?

ST: The answer to that is yes. While I usually have a rental house in Los Angeles while I am in Kentucky, I have given that up and I am now looking for a place in New York. I hope to finally finish and bring to fruition a number of projects that have been on my plate.

PC: Such as?

ST: Well, one is only in the sketch phase that I have talk to Peter Askin about co-writing - it's a fascinating story that is drawn from my family history, actually; a sort of drop-dead-you-can't-believe-it story that I can't even begin to tell you about now. I'd love if Michael Mayer were to direct it. The working title is JUST THE BLACK KEYS.

PC: What a great title!

ST: Thanks.

PC: Do you compose on the piano or guitar?

ST: I usually write on the piano. But, for instance, "Wicked Little Town" I wrote on the guitar and turned into a piano song; "Origin Of Love" I wrote on the piano but turned it into a guitar song. So, you can never necessarily tell by listening to them which was written on what!

PC: The Breeders's "Wicked Little Town" cover is incredible.

ST: Isn't that the most beautiful thing ever? They just sent that in to us and it was just one of those jaw-dropping moments where you're like, "This is so good!" As a matter of fact, when John [Cameron Mitchell] and I were traveling around Ohio back in 2004 in support of John Kerry, the Breeders joined us for a show in Akron and we did "Wicked Little Town". It was hilarious, too, because none of us could remember the lyrics!

PC: No way!

ST: Yeah! There were all these super-fans of HEDWIG there, though, so before the show we asked them, you know, "Does anybody know all the lyrics of 'Wicked Little Town' and can write them down for us?" So, whoever volunteered the most fervently we brought in to help us write all the lyrics down on lyric sheets for us to use.

PC: Speaking of the WIG IN A BOX charity album, tell me about preparing the brand new track, "Milford Lake"?

ST: Well, with "Milford Lake", I had written an unfinished Tommy Gnosis song from when we thought there was going to be a Tommy Gnosis musical - when we were still deciding if there should be a Tommy Gnosis musical or if Hedwig should have one act and Tommy should have one act or what. So, it started out as being one of those songs that would have been a non-Hedwig song that Tommy wrote by himself. So, I remember John said to me, "Write a song about water," and that's what I wrote. And, unlike the other HEDWIG songs, I wanted to bring John in as a lyrical collaborator on that as opposed to, in the context of the show, he was Hedwig and the book writer and I was the composer and lyricist of the songs. In this context, it didn't make sense to have him just be the singer, though - so, the concept of that one was that it was a Tommy Gnosis song and him singing a sort of song of regret and the song of regret focused on a metaphor that I had actually established - which talked about the way that the reflection on a surface of water projects an image that can be entirely different than what's actually underneath the water; that's a metaphor for how you present yourself to the world versus your eternal emotional life.

PC: What a compelling concept!

ST: Yeah! So, I went over to John's house and I had some lyrics and I said, "You know what would be great? What if the body of water that they are looking at is a man-made lake with a town underneath it, because it was dammed-up? Is there anything like that in or near Junction City?" And, John said that there was something similar, but there just wasn't a town underneath it. So, we looked it up on the internet and we found out that Milford Lake in Junction City actually did have a town underneath it!

PC: That's incredible! Fate was smiling on you, clearly.

ST: Yeah, it was so weird. So, the song became about him having lived there and the unfinished business there and the regret and the mistakes that he had made there. That was the nature of the song.

PC: The chorus is so Nirvana - "We're gonna drown". Was that intentional? Did that chorus always exist?

ST: Yes, the chorus always existed. The part that didn't exist before John and I finished it were the lyrics to the verses - all the music was there, though.

PC: Are you playing guitar on the track on the album?

ST: Yes, I am playing guitar on that and our good friend Jack is, too, who we lost a few years ago - he played in my early bands, including an early version of Cheater. Shortly before we lost him, I asked him to play bass on that. I played the keyboards and guitars. Tim O'Heir - who now did HEDWIG on Broadway - recorded the vocals and the overdubs and mixed it.

PC: Speaking of the sound for the Broadway show, did you want it really loud like it is?

ST: As long as it's really loud and not too loud, yes! We played around with, you know, "Oh, should it go down 2 decibels?" But, I sit in the main seats and I don't miss any lyrics, so I feel like if I am getting all the lyrics... it's the maximum you can have without hurting the ears and still filling the space, I think. Every space has a maximum volume of sound pressure - that's what sound produces, basically; pressure. When you measure decibels, it is with a sound pressure meter and that is how you know how many decibels it is and every room is different as far as how much sound pressure it can handle. It's not uncomfortably loud, it's excitingly loud - which is what I want, as long as you can hear all the lyrics on top. On a given night, there might be some variations - it's live theatre and there are real people playing and barometric pressure changes; there are variables in live performance and that's why we like it. But, in my experience in hearing a lot of other Broadway shows, the orchestra pit is so far removed that it feels like it's not in the same building - especially places where the orchestra is mostly underneath the stage or in another room entirely. It's one thing to hear a kick-drum on a speaker and another to hear it live - live sounds actually move air. A kick-drum feels like somebody blowing on your face - you just can't turn up speakers loud enough to move air. I don't mean to insult any other shows, but you really get the sense at HEDWIG that live music is being played before you. So, in short - yes, it's loud. But clear! Loud and clear. [Laughs.]

PC: So, have you visited David Belasco's ghost upstairs yet?

ST: No, I haven't gotten up there - not yet.

PC: Did you consider any other spaces? Circle In The Square?

ST: We wanted it in a proscenium house - when you do a show that is non-traditional like ours is, I think it helps to theatricalize it.

PC: An insightful point.

ST: I think our show works best when it is in a space like that - whether at the Jane Street, where it was like a derelict ballroom, or this place. We had a potential choice of two theaters - that was all that was available in town. They could guarantee us the Belasco and the other theater they had another show in and couldn't guarantee it to us, so we chose the Belasco. What I also loved about the Belasco was that the proscenium was really, really big and yet there was a forced intimacy to how the stage was set-up and how the set that we have used the space.

PC: How involved were you with the audition process? Lena Hall told me there were many, many callbacks.

ST: Well, I was not very involved with the audition process - I just came in for the final day.

PC: Do you feel the movie has added immeasurably to the HEDWIG fan-base-building over the last 15 years? It's absolutely perfect, after all.

ST: It is perfect - I agree. The stage show and the movie are very different experiences, though. A lot of people respond to the play like it's a brilliant adaptation of the movie now, which is really funny to me. I say to them, "It's the other way around!" [Laughs.]

PC: Is "The Origin Of Love" the first song you wrote for HEDWIG as far as you remember?

ST: Yes. "The Original Of Love" was the first thing I wrote for the show.

PC: Did any of the songs come from other sources or abandoned projects?

ST: The score was pretty much all-new.

PC: You were in a band and did some demo tapes prior to HEDWIG, though, correct?

ST: I did, but some of those tapes are really crap. [Laughs.]

PC: So perhaps not the best source to cull from, then.

ST: I mean, I always felt like I was a really hit-or-miss singer - I would sound great at home and then I would get to the studio and it wouldn't be as good. I used to do this scream-singing-type thing and other people would be like, "Oh, that's what you've gotta do, man!" and, I'd be like, "Well, that's not really what I intended to do...." And, to be honest, I was so full of myself when I was young that I had no ability to listen to the suggestions of other musicians, much less listen with an open mind. I didn't have a band in high school, either, so the whole thing was very new to me.

PC: How did you end up at Wesleyan?

ST: Well, I'm from Connecticut, so I went to Wesleyan - and the number of creative folk that have come out of Wesleyan is sort of mind-blowing; the extent and amount of television, movie, music, theatre people. From a theatrical perspective, you've got Blue Man Group, IN THE HEIGHTS, PASSING STRANGE and HEDWIG...

PC: What an impressive assortment!

ST: Yeah, isn't that pretty cool? It's all interesting work, too. Then, you look at the stuff on TV - the guys behind HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER met at a writing class at Wesleyan.

PC: It's a small world, especially given the Neil Patrick Harris connection! Have you gone back?

ST: Yes, I have. Two years in a row, I have gone back and spoken to a performance studies class - it's so interesting; these kids ask the most amazing questions. Their brains are functioning on the most amazing levels. The last time I went, they were explaining their projects to me and I was like, "Oh, my God! I wish I was their professor!" They're just so interesting to me.

PC: What usually comes first, music or lyrics - using, for example, "The Origin Of Love"?

ST: Well, for "The Origin Of Love", the opening lyrics of that were written on a street corner - and then I had to run home to write them all down. It occurred to me that the fictional world that I was trying to describe - this mythical world that didn't exist - reminded me of the book HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU by Dr. Seuss.

PC: A pretty unlikely source for inspiration, no?

ST: I felt like if I told about this world with weird geography and strange atmosphere and mythical creatures that don't really exist and strange biology, but described it in a Dr. Seuss cadence, then I thought I could get away with it. So, basically, I wrote the entire verse in however long it takes to sing it. So, you know, I just stood there and said, [Speaks.] "When the earth was still flat / And the clouds made of fire / And mountains stretched up to the sky... page turn... sometimes higher." That's how I wrote it - like Dr. Seuss.

PC: What was the initial inspiration to base it on Plato?

ST: Yes. When John and I first met, he handed me Plato's SYMPOSIUM and said "I want you to write a song based on this story." So, that's why it's the first song I ever wrote for HEDWIG. I remember I said to him, "Wow, that's a lot of story to fit in! And, I have to make it personal and make it relate to this character, too!" [Laughs.]

PC: So, it was written before the idea for the show, then?

ST: Yeah - we hadn't even come up with the Hedwig character. That started out as being just a Tommy Gnosis song - Hedwig hadn't even been invented as a character at that point. You see, the show started out as being much more autobiographical about John, and he was going to sing this song. So, I started thinking about songs that cover huge territory - like Lou Reed's "Last Great American Whale".

PC: Lou Reed's BERLIN and NEW YORK are big influences on HEDWIG, yes? You wrote about him so eloquently in your ROLLING STONE obituary piece.

ST: Amazing albums, right?! Definitely Lou Reed is a huge influence on HEDWIG - maybe even the biggest.

PC: How did the rest of the songs fall into place?

ST: Well, it was more a periodic thing where we worked on it on and off - of course, John was going off and doing his jobs and I had a band at the time and I was writing songs for my band. John was doing theatre and movies and voiceover jobs and lived in LA for a while, and I was busy with my budding career as a pizza delivery man. [Laughs.]

PC: Was "Nailed" written originally for your band or did you write it specifically for Tommy in the film?

ST: "Nailed" was written during the band era, I think - yeah - but it was written for Tommy, because he had a Jesus obsession.

PC: Did you ever try to fit that into the stage show in any way? It's such a great song.

ST: I kind of like that song, too. But, you know, without structurally changing the show, there isn't room for new songs. We tried to do a new song for Hedwig for this and I started working on it - I had a riff and I had a concept that it would be sort of Hedwig's punk rock version of this state-sponsored dance craze in the 1960s called the Lipsky, which was designed to keep kids from doing the twist; it was in 6/8, this dumb time signature. It was just awful, though. It was supposed to be about Hedwig remembering doing this dance and then having it build into this rock rave-up thing. But, then we realized we were f*cking with our 95-100-minute structure and we didn't want to have an intermission. We had our structure and we had our thing and we even got in something new with the HURT LOCKER thing anyway - and, even that; there was a verse to that, too.

PC: Tell me about writing THE HURT LOCKER: THE MUSICAL moment.

ST: Well, I was trying to do real Broadway writing in that - a real, professionally-written Broadway song that is totally wrong; a good composer writing something totally wrong. That's part of the joke of THE HURT LOCKER: THE MUSICAL - it's not about the talents of the people assembled, it's about why does THE HURT LOCKER sing? And, the answer is: it doesn't. [Laughs.]

PC: So, there is more that you wrote from that show, then?

ST: Yes. There is more stuff than what ended up in the show. You know, I wanted it to be sort of soaring and a little bit Sondheim-ian and have a lot of internal rhymes. It's just sort of like... from a structural point of view, it's perfect Broadway writing - all these internal rhymes and thesaurus words - but it doesn't work; it's just so wrong. It's like the idea was, "Let's really go there with the towers and that will appeal to them emotionally," but, no - it's wrong. It's just wrong. That was the joke of it. But, even in the context of it, it was too much, so we just do the chorus in the show - and, in the program it's credited to my real name before I changed it; Stephen R. Schwartz. I actually have some credits under that name, too, so it's like this pathetic past version of myself or something.

PC: Were you involved with performing in musicals at all growing up?

ST: Not really. But, in high school, we put on a musical every year and that was one of the main ways you could perform - really, one of the only ways you could perform at all. So, I tried out for all the musicals and I got into all the ones I tried out for.

PC: What ones do you remember?

ST: I did GREASE - they begged me to do Danny because I was basically the only musical theatre guy there who wasn't a lisping mary; no offense to my boyfriend in high school! All the other theatre boys were fairly fey, so they begged me - begged me - to do Danny, but I didn't want to do it because my boyfriend at the time wanted it. And, I remember they didn't have a saxophone in the orchestra and I learned how to play the alto sax just for the show - I practiced for two hours every day and wrote this awesome little rock n roll sax solo like you would have heard on a Coasters album to do. We hid the sax in the car and then they brought out the sax for me to do it in the show during "Greased Lightning".

PC: What other shows did you do?

ST: I did WONDERFUL TOWN, too - and a bootleg version of A CHORUS LINE! It was very, very funny. The Paul character was changed from being gay to just being really, really sad and "T*ts & Ass" was changed to "Just Good Looks". We couldn't afford mirrors, so they stretched mylar over cardboard - they didn't even look like mirrors. It was a f*cking mess. [Laughs.]

PC: What a vivid memory!

ST: I also remember I went to a day-camp when I was a kid and we did a Borscht Belt type variety show like THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW, too.

PC: That was probably your first exposure to performing in live theatre, yes?

ST: I remember singing a medley of Four Seasons songs in that; yeah - it probably was. My falsetto voice went away a couple of years ago, though - probably because of allergies or someone choking me or something.

PC: By the way, have you seen the social media image where somebody wrote "HOMO" on the HEDWIG poster and someone else wrote "SAPIEN" below it?

ST: No, I haven't - but that is f*cking brilliant!

PC: Were you involved with the ad campaign at all?

ST: Yes, we were. First, they sent us this list of photographers and we were like, "No! No! No!" and then we finally settled on somebody we liked and we all decided, "Let's do a look that does the Tommy and Hedwig thing like when John would go off and do gigs as Hedwig but not with the full Hedwig drag; an androgynous type thing." The make-up design had not been done yet, obviously, either. At the shoot, we were all egging Neil on and running back and forth looking at the photos as they were coming up on the screens and almost as soon as the image came out it became, like, iconic.

PC: It is. Andrew Rannells even evokes a very similar pose and look in the poster for his run in the show.

ST: Yeah, when we saw the full picture and just the sliver with the eyes - we knew instantly that that was our poster. We were like, "Oh, yeah - we've got our picture." That's all Neil, too - no doubles or anything.

PC: What can you tell me about your upcoming projects?

ST: Well, I told you already about JUST THE BLACK KEYS with Peter and Michael. I've also got a closed-to-finished first draft of a musical I have been writing with Rick Elice called 15 MINUTES, which is set at Studio 54. Without giving too much away, it's about Studio 54 and the other clubs that were popping up at the time like the Mudd Club and CBGBs - the first half exists in the 54 world and the second half occurs as 54 is decaying and into the Mudd Club world. We get a lot into issues of presentation and authenticity and fame and image - that's a lot of what it's all about. It's about the conflict between the entertainment world and the club world, too. It follows some characters through the Studio 54 era and after the fall of 54 and all of that. It's very interesting and smart - like everything that Rick Elice touches, it's brilliant.

PC: Did you ever get to go there yourself?

ST: I was like 15, so I just missed it - I was 14 in 1980. If I had a couple more years, I would have been old enough to go, though.

PC: The late-70s/early-80s is very in vogue right now in pop culture, as well - THE AMERICANS, Martin Scorsese's new HBO series and AMERICAN HUSTLE, to name a few.

ST: I think it's a good time for us to explore that time period and notions of fame and authenticity and image, which were sort of part of the art that Andy Warhol made, too - all of that was a part of it; the same goes for the stuff that John [Lennon] and Yoko were doing in terms of turning their relationship into an art piece. So, yeah, we're working on that right now.

PC: If given a choice, is there one movie you would love to musicalize?

ST: Oh, definitely POLYESTER! I mean, there are so many lines in that that are already lead-ins to songs! You know, "I'm having an abortion - and I can't wait!" and stuff like that. I remember John Waters used to come into Squeezebox and also used to come into the pizza place I worked at over on Avenue A. I told him that I named my band Cheater after something he wrote in one of his books - SHOCK VALUE - where Divine would wear a fake vagina, which she called a cheater, so she could strip down to her underwear in her shows.

PC: What can you tell me about HEDWIG 2?

ST: We've done a couple of readings at this point. "Milford Lake" will be in HEDWIG 2, by the way, since we were talking about that earlier. It's very experimental in its structure. At this point, we really need to sit down and really hone the structure and find out where the songs go and what they're about because right now I have pretty much taken all the spots that are really good song spots. We really need to determine if it is a proper musical or a play with songs - just like HEDWIG starts off as a presentational musical, but by "Sugar Daddy" it has a book that leads into the song like musical books lead into songs. "And then I met a big sugar daddy named Luther," you know?

PC: Precisely.

ST: Those three songs in a row all have traditional book musical lead-ins - "Sugar Daddy", "Angry Inch" and "Wig In A Box". Then, we go back to reality and a more presentational mode and then the very end is rock opera mode where we don't know what the f*ck reality we are in. So, we have to figure that out for HEDWIG 2.

PC: Speaking of which, what are your thoughts on rock operas like TOMMY and THE WALL and JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR?

ST: Well, everybody likes TOMMY! I actually never saw TOMMY on Broadway, though. For me, most of my theatre was super avant garde - especially since I saw everything that John Cameron Mitchell did downtown. I do remember seeing JEROME ROBBINS' BROADWAY, but I don't have a lot of Broadway or big commercial theatre memories. The closest thing I had to that was seeing THE LION KING early on in its run through Kevin Cahoon, who was a hyena in that and was a replacement Hedwig at the Jane Street. Also, I remember going to a really big theater with a balcony and seeing SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION with John. I remember seeing Tom Waits's opera ALICE, too. You know, I didn't have a lot of money - I was broke - so I couldn't afford to see a lot of shows before HEDWIG.

PC: Tom Waits seems to be an influence on HEDWIG in a way, too.

ST: I'm sure he is - you know, stuff comes in and then it goes out and Tom Waits is one of those stuffs, although I wasn't really meaning it. "Hedwig's Lament" could be perceived as Tom Waits. Basically, my influences are everything from 1960s rock n roll on. The closest thing I ever was to a show tune queen growing up was with LIZA WITH A Z - I was obsessed with that record. A couple of years ago, I went out and bought the new DVD and saw it for the first time, too. I'm a huge Liza Minnelli fan. I f*cking love Liza. I love Ella Fitzgerald, too - especially her Cole Porter album.

PC: Are you a Cole Porter fan?

ST: Huge. It's just mind-boggling the sh*t that he got away with, too. And, his structures! That 32-bar AABA format... his songs just don't follow that format! Like, "I've Got You Under My Skin" is basically through-composed. He is just spectacular - I love him. Another more recent big influence is Woody Guthrie, too - he was writing on a level that Bob Dylan would just masturbate to! He's writing about everything - so many influences and so many different styles. The range of stuff that he wrote... and such gorgeous, gorgeous lyrics!

PC: Thank you so much for this today, Stephen - this was utterly fascinating and we can't wait to hear your next score!

ST: Thank you, too, Pat - this was a lot of fun. Bye bye.

Photo Credits: Walter McBride, etc.

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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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