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BWW Reviews: 'ShoNo' Shortage of Talent in Short North Stage's HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH

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Straight from a sold-out Boston run of the glam-rock musical in which JJ Parkey won the Broadway World Boston award for Best Actor, the Emcee from Short North Stage's previous "Cabaret" performance is back as an East German-born drag queen yearning for her "missing half". Gracing the Short North Stage as a prequel to Pride Saturday, this production is what the "ShoNo" is all about- acceptance of individuality, both artistic and sexual- at its finest.

While "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" contains themes of love, acceptance, and individuality that are universal, audiences be forewarned that this show is not for the inhibited (think "Rocky Horror Picture Show" on sequined steroids). The storyline is actually presented through the context of the audience attending one of Hedwig's (JJ Parkey) performances in a third-rate tour of the country, while stalking her ex-love who is now a much more successful rock star, having stolen the music that he and Hedwig wrote together.

It chronicles Hedwig's life from a young boy in East Berlin, through a series of failed relationships with his mother, father, Army husband, and transgender husband, Yitzhak (Ruthie Stephens). Hedwig's tragic story involves a botched sex change operation, hence the "Angry Inch", abuse at the hands of nearly every person he loved, and then the abusive green-card obtaining marriage to Yitzhak. Beneath the avant garde performance style lies undertones of rock greats like David Bowie, Tina Turner, and Nona Hendryx, and surprisingly, the philosophy of Plato as well. Costume and Wig Design by Edward Carignan would make RuPaul proud, and local Columbus orchestra members Britta DeVore, Alexander W.C. Fiete, Dane Terry, and Derrick Walter set the stage for delightful visuals and impressive music. However, when your cast contains merely two members besides the band, they had better be stellar, and JJ Parkey as Hedwig, as well as Ruthie Stephens as Yitzhak do not disappoint. Parkey is phenomenal- angsty and electric in "The Angry Inch", self-absorbed and flauntingly pompous in "Sugar Daddy", and reflective and raw in "Wicked Little Town(reprise)".

Parkey works every inch of his silver platform stilettos and jeweled brassieres with convincing gusto and passion. His snarky audience interactions, including a promise to "motorboat whatever body part you desire of the person who consumes the most vodka during intermission", may not be for everyone, but for those with an acquired love of Dr. Frank-N-Furter-style comedy, she will definitely be an acquired taste. As for her husband, Yitzhak, Ruthie Stephens may have the best set of pipes I have heard locally this year. Though underutilized by intent of showing her submission to Hedwig for most of the show, when she sings, this girl sings. "The Long Gift" and "Exquisite Corpse" will knock you right out of your fuchsia fishnets.

"Hedwig and the Angry Inch" is ironically a balls-to-the-wall, rock musical with surprisingly emotional statements to be made on sexuality, gender, and acceptance. While I left still unsure if Hedwig was truly at home as either a man or a woman, the desire to escape loneliness and become "whole" resonates clearly. If you want to learn more about "The Origin of Love", check out Short North Stage's "Hedwig and the Angry Inch", now through June 22nd. Go to : http://shortnorthstage.org/calendar/v/193 for tickets and additional information.

PHOTO CREDIT: Na Eun Park


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From This Author Lisa Norris

Lisa grew up participating in community theater groups such as Cincinnati Young People's Theater (CYPT) in suburban Cincinnati, Ohio, both in front of and behind (read more...)