Captivating Hedwig Gives a Powerful Performance

50437938_10156907388744144_8964329755935506432_nI have to admit that as I drove over to Academy’s new space (same location, updated space), I knew next to nothing about Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which was part of the appeal in going. Looking through my social media feed, it felt that I was indeed the last person on Earth to know anything about this show.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a rock musical by Stephen Trask and John Cameron Mitchell. The action of the show is a performance of Hedwig’s band, The Angry Inch and the audience members learn about the events that lead to this moment. Hedwig, a genderqueer punk rock artist, interrupts her set with stories of her life from when she was a young boy in East Germany to her present life in America. I’m thrilled that I walked into the theater on opening night totally unaware of the plot, and in the improbable case that there is someone else out there who doesn’t know this show, I’m leaving surprises for the cast to unwrap.

After making it through Academy’s beautiful new lobby, I found myself not in a theater, but in a punk rock club.  Director Ted Clement clearly had a vision from the beginning and I love that we saw that during pre-show. The energy you feel just walking in promises that this is not going to be a typical night of theater. Kyle Renee’s set design was akin to taking a trip in a time machine back to the glory days of punk/glam rock. The bright colors on the wall of the stage and the stage floor, juxtaposed with the black and white flyers and photos stage right made me feel as if I needed to grab a beer before I settled in to watch the band. Throughout the show, toward stage left, projections were shown in conjunction with Hedwig’s words. From my seat, which was closer to house left, I have to admit I missed most projections, which bummed me out a little because I’m a huge fan of bringing non-traditional elements to a production. The band kicked ass (kudos to musical director Tobias Andrews who also played the keyboard, joined by David Tessier on guitar, Garrett Campbell on bass guitar and Austin Andrews on drums). After the show I wanted to hang out and hear more!

The cast is small, as it consists of Hedwig (Kevin Broccoli), her husband Yitzhak (Vic Leo) and the Wiggs – Schnitzel (Tabi Baez), Strudel (Julia Egan) and Bratwurst (Erika Fay Greenwood). The Wiggs were fabulous backup singers for Hedwig, excellent casting choices there. I assumed that the backup trio was a traditional part of the script; however, this also seems unique to Clement’s production, and I thought it was a great addition.

Kevin Broccoli gave a raw, authentic and captivating performance. The moment he stepped onto the stage you couldn’t look away; you’re witnessing something special that will be talked about for years. In particular I enjoyed “Origin of Love,” and you can’t walk away from this production without thinking of his performance during “The Angry Inch,” the story of Hedwig’s botched sex change operation. It was a truly powerful performance. Vic Leo’s performance as Yitzhak complemented Broccoli’s, and their voice was simply divine. As much as I found myself drawn to Broccoli’s performance, I couldn’t help but check out what Leo was up to as well. I truly don’t feel a better pair could be found — they were sublime together.

You do not want to miss this show.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the James and Gloria Maron Cultural Arts Center (the home of Academy Players) until January 27. Friday and Saturday performances are at 7pm, with matinees at 4pm. academyplayersri.org

 

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