BWW Review: HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH at Cast Aside Productions
Have you ever felt unheard or unloved? Then take a seat and allow the "internationally ignored" rock star, Hedwig, take you on a journey you will never forget.
This raucous rock musical comes in the guise of a concert performed by East German, Hedwig Robinson, and her aptly named band, The Angry Inch. Hedwig leads us through her heartbreaking life story, touching on pivotal points such as her early childhood marred by Cold War politics, a botched sex-change operation, and her teetering-on-the-edge relationship with husband Yitzhak, who also happens to be a former drag-queen, but what drives the story to another level is the fact that former lover, Tommy Gnosis, is performing right next door to a sold out crowd.
The musical score and lyrics by Stephen Trask have a heavy glam rock vibe, while John Cameron Mitchells book manages to meld together rock concert banter with drag show flare, confessional dialogue, encompassed by a stand-up comedy routine that can rival any seasoned comedian.
This is a big show for a small company, and could easily go awry, but Cast Aside Productions puts it in the hands of two performers who carry the weight effortlessly. Michael Jenkins tackles the transgender Hedwig with tenacity and a tenderness that befits this role. With its heavy song load, Jenkins impeccable, crystal-clear tenor vocals never falter and are goose bump inspiring. He is inexhaustible, taking us on a journey that weaves its way deeper into the broken soul that lies within this enigmatic character. Jenkins has the ability to hold the audience in the palm of his hands. His witty banter, incredible timing, and ability to adapt and change as the audience responds takes a level of confidence usually seen in older performers, but Jenkins is the complete package and tackles this big role with style and grace.
Lex Cie is an ever-present Yitzhak, whose existence takes a back seat during most of the show, but is the rock Hedwig needs to lean on. Cie's vocals are a wonderful compliment to Jenkins, and when finally unleashed in the last segments of the show are breathtaking. Yitzahk's transformation is something to be seen, and Cie embraces the role completely without reservation. Without this commitment, the show would not work.
The production team is to be commended. Kyle Aarons music direction is superb, while Celeste Green and David Surkin create a 360-degree experience that is intimate enough to draw us into Hedwig's world, but broad enough to maintain the concert façade. As a company that does not have a permanent home, Cast Aside Productions manage to transform the Portland Ballet Studio into a concert venue without being too cramped or gaudy. The atmosphere is set from the moment you walk through the door and maintained till the very last note. Brianna Wing lights the show thoughtfully, keeping the action moving, and helping the audience focus in on the action.
It would be remiss to not mention, The Angry Inch band. Kyle Aarons, Nathan Galvez, Michael King, and Jonathon Raines are note-perfect. This is an intimate space for a 4 piece band to unleash and strike the balance between glam-rock rock band and pit members for a musical performance. While at times the music tended to overpower Jenkins and Cie's vocals in the heavier rock numbers, the tender accompaniment to ballads more than made up for it.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is fantastic from beginning to end and fully deserved the standing ovation it received Friday night.
You can see Hedwig and the Angry Inch: Aug 24th, 25th, 26th at The Portland Ballet Studio.
For more information Visit Cast Aside Productions website: http://castasideproductions.com/