BWW Review: Ryan Bowie Brings Back His Amazing HEDWIG To The Roxy
Ryan Bowie revives his amazing performance as the "international song stylist" Hedwig Schmidt in the latest incarnation of Hedwig and The Angry Inch, now onstage at Clarksville's Roxy Regional Theatre through July 15. No matter if you saw him in 2014 during the show's initial run at theotherspace at The Roxy, you simply must make every effort to catch this vibrantly restaged version of the show that is unlike anything you're likely to see on any stage.
Bowie's thoroughly engaging and completely courageous performance as the richly conceived character is perhaps unparalleled on local stages, as he somehow manages to strip away every bit of artifice - despite Hedwig's outrageously styled wigs and glittery make-up - to create a portrayal that is authentic and genuine even as he teeters on stiletto heels. "Mad, bad and dangerous to know" in a way that Lord Byron could only have dreamt of, Bowie's Hedwig is, at once, sumptuously outlandish and over-the-top yet miraculously down-to-earth, honest and forthright.
His tour de force performance comes as absolutely no surprise to any theater-goer worth his salt who has watched Bowie's myriad performances on the Roxy stage. Quite simply, his range and versatility is astounding, considering the varied roles he's assayed in his years at the theater - in shows as diverse as The Sound of Music, Into the Woods, Spring Awakening, The Wedding Singer, The Rocky Horror Show, The Civil War and [title of show]. To say he can do anything isn't some sort of critical hyperbole, rather it's a statement of fact.
Ryan Bowie takes on any theatrical challenge with the skill and commitment of a pro and he succeeds because of his commitment and focus which, when coupled with his estimable talents and a never-say-die attitude, always results in success. Take, for example, his performance last Saturday night, coming on the heels of an opening night performance in which he was injured (most likely, an untimely ankle sprain brought on by some of Hedwig's more athletic, if raunchy, choreography. While someone less dedicated to his craft might have called out sick for the next show, instead Ryan Bowie made his way to the stage like the trouper he is to deliver a performance that you must experience in order to fully comprehend.
Delivering what amounts to an extended monologue, interspersed with songs that reflect the character's experiences, replete with her dogged determination to achieve the same stardom as her pop culture idols - like Debby Boone, Olivia Newton-John, Barbra Streisand and others of their ilk -- Bowie relates the story of Hedwig's long-lost love and tabloid press favorite Tommy Gnosis (who's performing nearby) and the circumstances that have created her new American persona and that "angry inch" that perfectly exemplifies her travails in pursuit of pop music stardom. It's a fast-moving, topsy-turvy world of fanciful wigs and costumes (would you expect anything less of a transgender performer who loves Cher and Tina Turner?), hard-to-fathom personal incidents and deeply heartfelt and emotional moments that can turn on a dime.
Giving ample support to Bowie is Sara Fetgatter, making her debut as Yitzhak, Hedwig's devoted partner and "husband." Fetgatter's performance is just as engaging as Bowie's, perhaps even more so in this updated Hedwig thanks to the expanded space and design aesthetic that affords her a better opportunity to strut her own considerable talents onstage. Her transformation at show's end only underscores Fetgatter's superb portrayal from the very start of the show.
Lending their own significant talents to the proceedings are the members of Hedwig's band, aka "The Angry Inch," who bring the show's music to life: Matthew McNeil, Jarrod Jackson, John Waddle and Thad Wallus.
Written by John Cameron Mitchell, with music and lyrics by Stephen Trask, Hedwig and the Angry Inch follows the titular Hedwig from her boyhood in East Germany and her subsequent status as an émigré to the United States as the wife of an American GI who ultimately leaves her high and dry on the plains of Kansas, thus catapulting her on her way to the top of the charts, as it were. Her journey is a circuitous one, to be sure, but it's filled with memorable moments that challenge Bowie and Fetgatter both to create characters who are accessible and believable. The resulting show is one that will vex and confound you, make no mistake about that, but you will find yourself challenged and enlightened by what you've witnessed.
It's theater of the highest order, rendered by artists who are worthy of the challenge and who need an audience to play to - don't miss it!
Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Words and music by Stephen Trask. Text by John Cameron Mitchell. Directed by Ryan Bowie. Assistant directed by Emily Rourke. Stage managed and designed by Samantha Hodson. Lighting design by Noel Rennerfeldt. Music direction by Matthew McNeil. Presented by The Roxy Regional Theatre, Clarksville. Through July 15. Running time: 90 minutes. For tickets and other information, go to www.roxyregionaltheatre.org or call (931) 645-7699.