BWW Review: HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH at HMAC Stage On Herr
Hedwig and the Angry Inch, by John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask, takes audiences on a journey. It's a journey of love, loss, betrayal, and acceptance. There is no such thing as the fourth wall in this show-this rock musical's audience is also the audience for the band Hedwig and the Angry Inch. As Hedwig performs she shares her story through word and song. After having the opportunity to hear from Chad-Alan Carr and Lindsay Bretz-Morgan about their experience performing Hedwig and the Angry Inch at HMAC, I had the chance to actually experience it for myself. And what an experience it is.
First, the venue is perfect-HMAC's Stage on Herr puts the audience right in the bar/club where Hedwig is performing. Add in the stage lighting and projections on the wall behind the band, and it really feels like you're in the story.
From the initial flag-clad entrance to the final stripped-down moments, Chad-Alan Carr is mesmerizing as Hedwig. Carr exemplifies the notion that attitude is everything. While he may say he's "not near as pretty" as he used to be, his attitude and look fit Hedwig perfectly. As we hear about Hedwig's life, the story is filled with humor, heartbreak, anger, frustration, and vulnerability, and Carr evokes these emotions through his voice, expression, and body language in such a sincere, organic way that the audience can't help but get swept up in the story and the underlying emotions.
Lindsay Bretz-Morgan is brilliant in her role as Yitzhak. From the beginning the audience can feel the tension that exists between Hedwig and Yitzhak (her husband and backup singer). Bretz-Morgan portrays Yitzhak as constantly toeing the line between being "just" a backup singer and wanting Hedwig and the audience to see him as more. Two of Bretz-Morgan's moments really stood out for me-the song "The Long Grift" and the moment when Hedwig gives Yitzhak her wig. Earlier in the show we learned that Yitzhak was performing in drag when they met and that Hedwig was intimated by his talent and required him to give up that part of his life. In the end when Hedwig gives Yitzhak his wig, the audience experiences and shares in this moment of connection and acceptance. The way that Carr and Bretz-Morgan connect in that moment is beautiful and profound.
Not only is the storytelling engaging, but the music is phenomenal as well. The band, who are on-stage for the whole show as Hedwig's band, are not just a band-they are characters in their own right. They interact with Carr and Bretz-Morgan just enough to come across as an essential part of the show without being distracting. They are also thoroughly engaged with the music and sensitive to their volume. Throughout the entire show, there were only a small handful of words that I couldn't hear, which is quite admirable for a show filled with high-energy, high-emotion rock songs. From "Tear Me Down", which sets the stage for the entire show, to "Midnight Radio" every song is delivered with heart. The audience feels Carr and Bretz-Morgan want them to feel. It's difficult to choose a favorite, or one pivotal song because every single song presents the audience with another piece of the story, another glimpse into Hedwig's life and relationships, another step on the journey of searching for our other half. For me, though, "The Origin of Love", "Wicked Little Town" (and reprise), and "Exquisite Corpse" were among the most well-performed songs of the evening.
I wish I had seen Carr and Bretz-Morgan perform this show in 2014 to be able to compare because what I experienced watching Hedwig and the Angry Inch and hearing the story through word, visuals, and song, was something truly thought-provoking; humor tinged with frustration, sadness, and anger; and a group of actors and musicians who were able to find and present an amazing range and depth of emotion in their characters.
There's only one more chance to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch at HMAC this year-May 26th, so make sure you visit www.harrisburgarts.com to catch their final performance.