Review: The Stage Austin's HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH - A Magnificent Triumph

The Stage Austin delivers a glorious production that is absolutely astounding in its beauty, heartbreak and humor.

By: Aug. 22, 2022
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Review: The Stage Austin's HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH - A Magnificent Triumph

HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH made its debut Off Broadway in 1998, an in-your-face rock musical with a non-hetero-normative central character that shocked audiences with its raw narrative. Looking back at a show that's 24 years old, one would think that the material, once shocking, would be less impactful given the intervening time and

our greater awareness and sensitivity to our LGBTQ neighbors, friends and family. The truth is that we need HEDWIG now more than ever and The Stage Austin delivers a glorious production that is absolutely astounding in its beauty, heartbreak and humor.

Hedwig Robinson (played magnificently by Buddy Novak), a genderqueer singer had a rough start in life in East Berlin during the years that the Wall divided the city between totalitarian Soviet rule and European freedom. To escape their abusive upbringing they make a fateful decision to have gender reassignment surgery with tragic results. Instead of functional anatomy, they are left with an 'angry inch'. While HEDWIG jokes constantly throughout the play about their botched procedure, one can see their deep pain, confusion and their struggle to find their authentic self. In America, they started a band whose name is reflected in the show's title. There lie their hopes, dreams, failure and ultimate triumph. In 2016 I wrote of HEDWIG's starring performer Buddy Novak, "Buddy Novak may only be a high school student but, mark my words, this young actor has talent to spare and their limitations are only defined by how big they can dream," (I have edited my original comment to use their preferred pronouns, they/them) and I would also like to add a big, 'I told you so'. Novak is a performer who leaves it all on the stage. Every moment of their time in the spotlight is utterly riveting. I simply could not tear my eyes away from their pure, raw and truthful perfection. Six years later and I am an even bigger fan of Buddy Novak, words fail to express the depth of my admiration for their performance, it touched my heart to the core. The rest of the cast is absolutely fantastic as well, Susannah Crowell as Yitzhak is a sensation. Their vocals are unearthly and pure. The band, Keyboard - Audrey Barrett, Bass - Alex Freeman, Guitar - Heath Allyn and Drums - Lerone Williams, are top billing worthy performers all. But it's Heath Allyn's superlative matching vocals and unbelievable vocal range that made him a band standout.

Jeff Hinkle's direction is quite simply perfect. He keeps the show's frantic pace from running wild and uses his actors, space and the driving musical beat to its utmost advantage. Hinkle also is able to provide the perfect setting for Novak to shine like the diamond they are. He never misses an opportunity to showcase the immense talent at his disposal. Using the refurbished Dougherty Arts Center stage in a way I have not seen in decades, Hinkle gives us the rock show/story that HEDWIG was truly meant to be. Jennifer Crump's lighting design is beautiful, using color and lighting intensity to tell the story. Audrey Barrett's music direction is fantastic, bringing the music and narrative together.

I cannot heap enough praise upon The Stage Austin and their choice of HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH at such a pivotal point in history. With rights being stripped from the LGBTQ community and women daily, this is an important story that must be told with sensitivity and love. This production accomplishes that and more. I urge you to grab your tickets for the final weekend before it's completely sold out, it will be. I await with great anticipation what will be next for young Buddy Novak and The Stage Austin, well done all.

HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH

Text by John Cameron Mitchell

Music and Lyrics by Stephen Trask

Directed by Jeff Hinkle

The Stage Austin

Dougherty Arts Center (1110 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX)

August 11 - 27

Curtain at 8pm

Tickets: Starting at $20




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