ENCORE THEATER CO.
A few months ago, I was approached by our artistic director, David Brush, about directing the upcoming production of Hedwig and The Angry Inch. My initial reaction was to decline, as life was certainly going to be very busy this spring, and I knew NOTHING about the show, but the opportunity to work with some of the most insanely talented people I’ve ever encountered proved to be too much of attraction. JJ Parkey was the lead in our production of RENT last June, as were The Bengsons (Shaun & Abigail), a mesmerizing musical duo that I can never get enough of.
Since most of the ensemble would not be able to begin rehearsal until very late in the process, JJ Parkey and I began to explore the show together. We began to peel away the layers of the show and discovered some of the most hearbreakingly beautiful theatre that I’ve ever encountered, all disguised as a drag queen rock show in a dive bar. The official show descriptions just don’t give Hedwig justice. All over the internet there are comments like “…a new generation’s Rocky Horror,” and “…outrageous and unexpectedly hilarious rock musical.”
These descriptions make the show sound great, but I had no clue to what extent this piece would affect me emotionally. This is one of the most intense pieces of musical theater that I have ever encountered, mixed in with a healthy dose of risque humor and a terrific rock score. While the characters and their over-the-top life experiences seem so foreign to us, their desire to become “whole” to be the person that they were meant to be, to live a complete life speaks to everyone. Everyone. It doesn’t matter that the words are being voiced by this character stuck somewhere between a woman and a man, through her horrific experience, we can see our own.
Once “The Angry Inch” gathered together and started joining us for rehearsals, I began to understand how this show has begun to garner status as a “cult classic” and amass an army of obsessed “Hed-Heads.” This show freakin’ rocks!
The story & lyrics by John Cameron Mitchell and the songs by Stephen Trask fit the setting of this dive bar gig. There’s something oddly old school about the comedy. At one turn the physical slapstick style of American Vaudeville perfectly married with the contemprary anger-laced and layered verbal sparring of today’s brightest comic minds. The comedy is paired with a diverse collection of songs that help to convey this character’s shocking story through a wide spectrum of emotion…passion, confusion, pain, anger, self-loathing, utter joy. If a live performance could be bipolar, then HEDWIG is the rock musical answer to ‘Sybil’ with performances that are equally iconic and memorable. The musical, comedy and dramatic layers collide in this performance to create an evening of near perfect theatre and an emotionally saturating 90 minutes.
UPDATE (4/8/2011): On Wednesday evening, DMM contributors Juliet Fromholt & GladGirl interviewed JJ Parkey about Hedwig & The Angry Inch on their show, Kaleidoscope on WYSO, 91.3 FM. Listen HERE.
-SA / DB
-Photos by Ray ZuppWe encourage local theatre companies to submit calendar items HERE, and official press releases to [email protected].
Tickets & Performance Information:
After the sex change operation that will allow her to marry US soldier Luther is botched, East German rock ‘n’ roll goddess and “internationally ignored song stylist” Hedwig Schmidt is left with just “an angry inch.” This award-winning, outrageous, and unexpectedly hilarious show tells her story in rock music and stand-up comedy. Hedwig and The Angry Inch is a show for all those who felt life gave them an inch when they deserved a mile.
Thursday & Friday, April 7 & 8 – 8pm at Club Vex, 101 S. St. Clair Street
Saturday, April 9 – 8pm at MJ’s Cafe, 119 E. Third Street (enter at back of building)
All Tickets $15 – Visit EncoreTheaterCompany.com for tickets
For more information about Encore Theater Company’s entire 2011 season of musical theatre, visit EncoreTheaterCompany.com