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BWW Reviews: HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH Retooled And Ready To Rock

BWW Reviews: HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH Retooled And Ready To Rock

HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH, which makes its triumphant return to the Short North Stage's Garden Theatre (1187 N. High Street in downtown Columbus) this June, is a musical that thrives in its awkward pauses. It is one-part comedy, two parts heartbreaking exposition of a soul-bearing torment, blended together with a pulsating rock soundtrack.

The result of the John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask musical is a non-stop thrill ride that leaves the audience exhausted by its curtain call.

Director and choreographer Edward Carignan calls HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH one of SNS' "most requested musicals" but he writes in the show's playbill he was concerned about it becoming a museum piece in the nearly two decades since it debuted in New York City. To keep it from becoming a show like RENT, which can seem dated in its many revivals, Carignan retooled the original ending where Hedwig suffers a nervous breakdown and wakes up in the body of his former lover and current pop idol Tommy Gnosis. The reinvented ending seems to satisfy both diehard fans of the show as well as those who are experiencing it for the first time.

After playing Hedwig six years ago in the musical's Columbus debut, JJ Parkey reprises his role as a transgender rocker who names his band after the results of a botched sex change operation. (Do the math yourself.)

After opening the show with "Tear Me Down," Parkey's Hedwig takes shots at all things Columbus. He mocks everything from Columbus drag queen Nina West to Garden Theatre's neighbor Goody Boy -- "They changed everything over there. Now it looks like a Chucky Cheese." His pot shot at the Columbus parking situation in the Short North district drew thunderous applause from the audience as did as his destruction of a Chick-Fil-A meal.

Parkey's commitment to his character gives a flesh-and-bone persona to Hedwig, taking the character far beyond a one-dimensional joke. Hedwig's stories about growing up with a molesting father and a distant mother and disappointing love affairs show the origins of the singer's neuroses, attitudes and passion.

While the show would seem to be a one-character tour-de-force, HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH would not work without its supporting players. Amy Lynn Zanetto plays Yitzhak, Hedwig's long-suffering, coolly detached partner. Dismissed by Hedwig as a second-rate performer, Yitzhak longs to step into the spotlight. The few times Yitzhak manages to tiptoe past Hedwig, Zanetto makes the character sparkle. Her voice ranges from a spot-on imitation of Celine Dion to providing gritty rock vocals.

Zanetto, a woman playing a man who returns to being a drag performer by the show's end, may have a great vocal range. However, she gives Yitzhak an indifferent, fatalistic attitude that draws the audience in. One of the reoccurring bits in the show is in the middle of a Hedwig rant, Yitzhak turns up a broadcast of a Tommy Gnosis concert. Gnosis seems just about ready to reveal the help Hedwig gave him, but always comes up short.

It is an interesting dichotomy between the two characters. Hedwig talks incessantly about how the performer has been hurt by other lovers and yet fails to see how hirs interactions affect Yitzhak as well as the other members of the band.

The band of bassist Jacek (Bruno Bush), drummer Schlatko (Joe Spurlock), guitarist Krzyzhtoff (Dave Buker) and keyboardist Skszp (Samuel Clein) place their own thumbprint on the show. Playing on stage, the four perform with stoic, vacant expressions and exchange eye rolls when Hedwig launches into one of hirs diatribes. The only time the band expresses anything beyond disgust is when Yitzhak performs.

The ending is so satisfying that it makes newcomers wonder how the show originally ended. This six-member show makes an INCH go a long way.

Only eight performance of HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH remain at the Garden Theatre (1187 N. High Street in downtown Columbus). The show will be performed at 8 p.m. June 20-22 and June 27-29 with 3 p.m. matinees on June 16 and 23. Call 614.725.4042 for details.

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From This Author Paul Batterson