BWW Review: HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH at Lyric Theatre

BWW Review: HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH at Lyric Theatre

The Rochester Fringe Festival is one of Upstate New York's cultural beacons (along with its Jazz Festival, Park Ave Festival, and Gay Film Festival, among many others). Each year it features performers known and unknown, showcasing everything from improv theatre to modern dance, macabre storytelling to interactive variety shows. That diversity and embracing of the bizarre makes the Fringe Festival the perfect venue to showcase OFC Creation's production of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch", the 1998 cult classic by John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask.

"Hedwig and the Angry Inch" is equal parts rock concert, drag show, standup comedy, and spoken word, in which German rock singer Hedwig Robinson (Hector Manuel) takes the audience on a wild storytelling journey through her East Berlin upbringing, torrid romantic escapades, botched sex change operation, and the life events that shaped her genderqueer identity, all aided by her husband/backup singer Yitzhak (Sable Stewart). While Hedwig is jamming out on one stage, an adjacent venue is hosting a concert by her much more famous and successful ex-lover Tommy Gnosis (not really, but suspend your disbelief). Hedwig frequently opens the door throughout the show to listen to Tommy's concert and reminisce about days gone by.

The intimacy of the Lyric Theatre made this production of "Hedwig" more reminiscent of a punk rock show at CBGB's than a musical on Broadway, where its last revival closed in 2015. Sitting mere feet from the stage brought the audience into Hedwig's world, and having the band on stage throughout the performance added to the small rock club atmosphere.

Both Hector Manuel and Sable Stewart gave top-notch performances as Hedwig and Yitzhak. Hector was one minute funny and engaging as she worked her way through the crowd breaking down the fourth wall, and then passionate and heartfelt the next as she sung about love and loss. Oh, and she totally rocked the fishnets too. Sable Stewart's piercing vocals and killer harmonies were intense and completely captivating. The audience-whose ages, funny enough, spanned from high school to senior citizens---hung on to every note.

The production's only drawbacks are ones that are probably out of OFC Creation's control: the Lyric Theatre's Cabaret Hall is tiny, packed to the brim with audience members (at least my performance was), and not well ventilated, making the room almost unbearably stifling; and the acoustics of the room make the lyrics often hard to discern and the vocalists often drowned out by the band. If house management can turn up the fans and the monitors, the rest of the run will be smooth sailing.

The Rochester Fringe Fest runs until September 22nd, and "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" is the perfect way to kick-off this annual celebration of culture in Rochester. For more information about "Hedwig" and to purchase tickets, click here.

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From This Author Colin Fleming-Stumpf

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