Rocking Out to “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”

By Morgan Wu

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve most likely heard talk of a Broadway show in which Neil Patrick Harris portrays a transgender woman and rock star named Hedwig (not the owl). What you didn’t hear is that the Tony-Award-winning musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch is about so much more than that.

Make sure to check out Michael C. Hall’s
performance as Hedwig! 

Hedwig (portrayed by The Book of Mormon original cast member Andrew Rannells until October 12th) is an “internationally ignored song stylist” from East Berlin, whose botched sex-change operation left her with an “angry inch.” Although rabid Neil Patrick Harris fans may be disappointed to hear that Harris departed the production in late August, I am pleased to report that Rannells was a revelation, more than living up to the high standard set by his predecessor. Supported by a scrappy six-member band–the Angry Inch–Rannells as Hedwig manages to strut, sweat, and leap through the production and make it look easy. He disappears into the role of Hedwig until the woman strutting around the stage was a completely separate entity from the television and Broadway star–and not just because of Hedwig’s enormous blond wig. A fellow audience member even commented at the stage door post-show, “I kept forgetting it was Andrew underneath those costumes.”

The show is staged as a “one-night-only” concert performed on the set of the fictional Hurt Locker: The Musical. Throughout the show, Hedwig keeps up a steady rapport with the audience, expounding upon the events that led her to move from Germany to America, and recounting how she came to be “internationally ignored.”

It would be a complete disservice to write a review of Hedwig without mentioning Lena Hall, the recipient of a Tony Award for her role as Yitzhak, Hedwig’s oft-humiliated, oft-repressed wife. With a sterling voice (I was particularly impressed by Hall’s rendition of “I Will Always Love You,” sung in the style of Whitney Houston), Hall’s character could easily steal the show– and would have, if not for Rannells’ equally impressive vocals, and Hedwig’s need to protect her spotlight.

However, what made me appreciate the show more was not the flashing lights, the astute actors, or the rock music—it was the fact that this production has come to Broadway at a time when more and more people are becoming aware of the LGBTQ+ movement and the oppression that transgender individuals face. This, along with the fact that Hedwig was denied a Broadway venue when it appeared in 1998 for the first time because it was “too radical” (leading the show to premiere Off-Broadway instead), makes the fact that this production won the 2014 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical all the more meaningful. Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a current, important show that is generating press in a critical time. So, if you can spare a few hours, head down to the Belasco Theatre to spend the evening with Hedwig and the Angry Inch for a night you won’t soon forget.

Note that Michael C. Hall replaces Andrew Rannells starting October 16th.

Morgan Wu is a first year at Barnard and a staff writer for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Image courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter

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