BWW Review: HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH Rocks at ZACH
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH is a 1998 Off-Broadway rock musical that won the Obie Award and Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Trask and a book by John Cameron Mitchell. It is a performance by Hedwig, a genderqueer East German singer of the fictional rock and roll band, The Angry Inch. In 2014, the show saw its first Broadway incarnation winning the year's Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. It was also filmed as a movie long before the revised Broadway production.
The current production, on stage now in ZACH's Topfer Theatre, follows the revised book used for the Broadway production, where Hedwig performed on the set for a fictional musical version of The Hurt Locker, which folded quickly on Broadway. In the ZACH production, she performs on the set of their recent production Goodnight, Moon and does so to hilarious effect. Director Dave Steakley has managed some great bits for this production that seemed ripped right out of today's headlines, making the show fresh as last night's episode of Rachel Maddow. I won't spoil them for you, but I laughed loudly many times. Add in some sharp choreography by Abe Reybold, and this performance flies by.
The scenic and production design by Stephanie Busing, is extremely clever, making some surprising changes before the final major transformation. Jason Amato dazzles us with a light show that reaches out into the audience. Michael McDonald has designed the costumes keeping with the traditional look but throwing in bits of Austin and an opening costume tribute to Texas. Serret Jensen's hair and makeup work are superb, as are Scott Groh's property designs. Craig Brock has done a terrific job with the sound here, keeping the band and the singers both at perfect levels. Kudos also to Allen Robertson for getting such great rock performances out of the cast and the band, composed of Luke Linsteadt, Chris Tondre, Beau Moore and Harrell Willians,Jr. who serve as the Angry Inch Band.
The musical gets its major storyline by drawing on Mitchell's life as the army brat of a father who once commanded the U.S. sector of occupied West Berlin. The character of Hedwig (Daniel Rowan) was inspired by a German divorced U.S. Army wife who was Mitchell's family babysitter and moonlighted as a prostitute at her trailer park home in Junction City, Kansas. Mitchell has stated that Hedwig is not a trans woman, but a genderqueer character. "She's more than a woman or a man," he has said. "She's a gender of one and that is accidentally so beautiful."
The basic concept is that the we are at a performance of Hedwig's act as she follows rockstar Tommy Gnosis' tour around the country (also played by Rowan). Occasionally Hedwig watches Gnosis's concert, (which is projected onto the giant moon), playing in another venue. Gnosis is recovering from an incident that nearly ruined his career. It seems he crashed his car into a school bus while receiving oral sex from none other than Hedwig. Hedwig is aided and hindered by her assistant, back-up singer and husband, Yitzhak (Leslie McDonel), a Jewish drag queen from Zagreb. To continue the blurred gender lines,Yitzhak is played by a female. Hedwig verbally abuses him throughout the evening, clearly threatened by his natural talent. She tells us she only agreed to marry him when he promised to never perform as a woman again.
Daniel Rowan owns the characters of Hedwig and Tommy in a blisteringly high energy performance. Supporting Rowan as Yitzhak is Leslie McDonel, who possesses a stunning voice, which almost stops the show when she has her solo, "The Long Grift". It is presented as a tune from Goodnight Moon. These two give absolutely masterful performances that have us eating out of their hands...because, like a great rock concert, you are left wanting more.
All told, HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH is superb rock theatre that entertains completely. This is a must see production of which all involved can be extremely proud.
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH, Text by John Cameron Mitchell, Music and Lyrics by Stephen Trask.
Running Time: Approximately 100 minutes with no intermission
Age recommendation: 13 and up for strong language and adult themes
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH, produced by ZACH Theatre in the Topfer (1510 Toomey Road, Austin, TX, 78704).
January 23 - March 3, 2019. Champagne Opening: Thursday, January 31, 2019.
More info at zachtheatre.org
PHOTO CREDIT: Kirk Tuck