Hedwig and the Angry Inch, playing tonight through Sunday evening at the Durham Performing Arts Center as part of DPAC‘s SunTrust Broadway Series, tackles controversial issues with an unapologetic rawness and flamboyant flair! In the aftermath of North Carolina’s infamous House Bill 2 bathroom bill and the Trump Administration’s recent Muslim travel ban and threats to deport millions of illegal immigrants, Hedwig and the Angry Inch is not only highly entertaining, but ironically “right on time.” It unapologetically tackles current hot-button issues with both an edgy rawness and fabulous panache.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a multiple award winning rock musical, based on a book by John Cameron Mitchell, with music and lyrics by Stephen Trask. It originated Off-Broadway in 1998 before moving to a prestigious West End theater in London, England, in 2000.
Although co-writer John Cameron Mitchell, who also directed the 2001 film version of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, originated the lead role of Hedwig on stage and on film, the show is most notably recognized for its multiple Tony Award®winning 2014 Broadway Revival, starring Neil Patrick Harris as Hedwig. (The motion picture also won the Audience Award and Best Director Award at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival.)
Although fictional, the play offers a glimpse into Mitchell’s own life as the son of a U.S. Army Major General. (I apologize now if I get any identifying pronouns wrong.) Hedwig, who was born Hansel Schmidt in East Berlin, is a genderqueer (or nonbinary) singer of a rock band. Although born a male, he had a botched sex-change operation, which left him with an inch-long reminder that he was born a man while now identifying as a woman.
After thinking that she found her kindred spirit in her devoted husband, Yitzhak, and desperately wanting to escape East Berlin, Hedwig formed a rock band and dubbed them “The Angry Inch” or “Tits of Clay.” She transformed herself into Hedwig and moved to America, where she proceeds to tour the U.S. with her band and Yitzhak, performing in a delightful androgynous glam-rock style reminiscent of David Bowie, Elton John, and Boy George.
Broadway and tour director Michael Mayer takes us on an innovative, heartbreaking journey. Before the show starts, we are treated to a visually fun set created by Julian Crouch. Throughout the performance, fun cartoon-like projections by Benjamin Pearcy and 59 Productions are utilized as visual aids for some of Hedwig’s monologues and backstory.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is very much a one-woman show, which stars Euan Morton in the title role. He effectively portrays a range of emotions with heartbreaking accuracy and vulnerability. However, I would argue that it is Hannah Corneau, who plays Hedwig’s husband, Yitzhak, who really steals the show. Corneau’s vocal range is beyond amazing, especially when she goes from a very low tenor register to belting soprano high notes.
The original Broadway band, led by music director Justin Craig (guitar and keyboards), reprise their roles on the current tour. Craig and Matt Duncan (bass), Tim Mislock (guitar), and Peter Yanowitz (drums) bring life to the show. They are all extremely gifted musicians who allow the diva Hedwig to shine. Unfortunately, they are underutilized when they are not performing. They often just lounge around the stage during a few very long monologues.
Hair-and makeup-designer Mike Potter has his work cut out for him, with multiple quick costume and wig changes. Several of these changes happen on stage in a blink or you’ll miss it moment. Lighting designer Kevin Adams also knows how to demand the audience’s attention.
There is some appropriately placed political humor, including jabs at the HB2 bathroom bill and the recent federal changes in immigration laws. There are two quotes from Hedwig that resonated with me: “It is clear that I must find my other half. What does this person look like? Identical to me? Or somehow complementary? Does my other half have what I don’t?” And “To be free one must give up a part of oneself.”.
No matter what your personal or political views are, there is an underlying theme of this show that can be summed up in two words: love and acceptance. Ultimately, no matter who we are or where we come from, we all need to experience those two things. Sometimes, the greatest love that we can offer is to accept ourselves for who we are.
A few important technical notes: This production relies heavily on multiple bright lights and strobe effects that are particularly jarring, slightly painful, and very disorienting, specifically when there are blackouts. Although there are multiple signs throughout the theater indicating that there will be no intermission, unfortunately there are no signs posted in the theater or in the program warning you about the lighting effects. I found this highly unusual, because seizures, vertigo, and migraine headaches can be induced by such effects.
During Tuesday’s opening-night performance, the amplifiers for the band were turned up way too loud, which unfortunately often drowned out the singers. I know that often traveling shows are only allowed into the theater a few hours before a performance, which does not always allow for proper sound tweaks; and I’m confident that this kink can easily be worked out.
SECOND OPINION: Feb. 1st Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh review by Jeffrey Kare: http://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Review-HEDWIG-THE-ANGRY-INCH-National-Tour-at-Durham-Performing-Arts-Center-20170201 and Jan. 27th BWW TV interview with actor Euan Morton, conducted by Jeffrey Kare: http://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-TV-Euan-Morton-of-HEDWIG-THE-ANGRY-INCH-National-Tour-20170127; Feb. 1st Raleigh, NC Triangle Arts and Entertainment review by Susie Potter: http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2017/02/hedwig-and-the-angry-inch-is-a-delightful-raunchy-rock-romp/; Jan. 27th Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by David Menconi: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/music-news-reviews/on-the-beat-blog/article128893279.html; Jan. 27th Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/lifestyles/hedwig-and-the-angry-inch-creators-talk-tour-version-of/article_738d7fd8-e349-11e6-8d37-3f7f35c99b8f.html (Note: You must subscribe to read this article); Jan. 25th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/hedwig-and-the-angry-inch/Event?oid=4995525; Jan. 24th Raleigh, NC Triangle Explorer interview with Hannah Corneau, conducted by John Huisman: https://triangleexplorer.com/2017/01/24/hedwig-and-the-angry-inch-ready-to-rock-dpac-january-31st-february-5th/; and Nov. 29th New York, NY Playbill.com preview by Andrew Gans: http://www.playbill.com/article/hedwig-and-the-angry-inch-national-tour-welcomes-new-stars-tonight. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Jan. 31st Triangle Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2017/01/hb2-be-damned-hedwig-and-the-angry-inch-will-raise-eyebrows-at-dpac-jan-31-feb-5/.)
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1 and 2, 8 p.m. Feb. 3, 2 and 8 p.m. Feb. 4, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Feb. 5 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.
TICKETS: $30-$125. Click here for DPAC Special Offers.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/2212135.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/group-services.
DPAC‘S SUNTRUST BROADWAY SERIES: http://www.dpacnc.com/suntrust-broadway-series-2016-17.
THE TOUR: http://www.hedwigbroadway.com/, https://www.ibdb.com/tour-production/hedwig-and-the-angry-inch–504197, https://www.facebook.com/HedwigOnBway, https://twitter.com/hedwigonbway, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedwig_and_the_Angry_Inch_%28musical%29#Broadway_and_U.S._National_Tour_Cast, and https://www.youtube.com/user/HedwigOnBway.
TOUR CAST AND CREATIVE TEAM: http://www.hedwigbroadway.com/#page-team.
WARNING: On its website, DPAC writes, “[Hedwig and the Angry Inch] Contains strong language and adult themes. [It is] Not recommended for children or preteens. Parental discretion [is] advised.”
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4th, performance.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (1998 Off-Broadway, 2000 West End, and 2014 Broadway musical): http://www.hedwigbroadway.com/ (official website), http://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=3132 (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/Production/306 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/hedwig-and-the-angry-inch-495293 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedwig_and_the_Angry_Inch_%28musical%29 (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Study Guide: http://www.newlinetheatre.com/hedwigchapter.html (New Line Theatre of St. Louis, MO).
Stephen Trask (music and lyrics): http://stephentrask.com/ (official website), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/3677 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/stephen-trask-407142 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Trask (Wikipedia).
John Cameron Mitchell (book): http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/3676 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/john-cameron-mitchell-74708 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Cameron_Mitchell (Wikipedia).
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001 film): http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/453999/Hedwig-and-the-Angry-Inch/ (Turner Classic Movies page), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0248845/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedwig_and_the_Angry_Inch_%28film%29 (Wikipedia).
Shannon Plummer-White is no stranger to the stage! She studied Musical Theater & Opera at the American Musical Dramatic Academy in New York City, and has appeared in films such as Iron Man 3 and Safe Haven. She has also performed with the North Carolina Master Chorale and the North Carolina Symphony. When she isn’t on stage or making magic behind the scenes, she can be found in the art studio playing with fire and molten glass. She is an animal advocate with a special love of cats. She has four rescued fur children and a very supportive husband. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.