Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Review by Tony Carter – Showbill.ca Contributor
June 8, 2017
Atomic Vaudville’s production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a burlesque-style variety show with a punk rock edge.
Hedwig is one of the most famous musicals starring a transgender character. The titular lead, historically played by a cisgender man, is a struggling rocker originally from East Berlin during the Russian occupation in the 1980s. Hedwig holds a grudge against her former protégé and lover, the much more successful Tommy Gnosis. The show recounts her early life and time with Tommy, punctuated by a range of songs that can shred or bring a tear to your eye.
While everyone on stage displays an impressive level of musical talent, special recognition is owed to Griffin Leonard Lea, who plays Hedwig, and Jana Morrison, who plays Yitzhak. Lea has a better singing voice while maintaining Hedwig’s tone and accent than most people do in simpler circumstances, and Morrison’s voice is destined for bigger stages.
The musical is structured as a variety show by Hedwig and her band that occasionally features a projector screen and audience participation, though they components are often neglected. “The Origin of Love” is accompanied by animations in the style of Hedwig’s childhood diary, and “Wig in a Box” ends up being a sing along for the audience. The other musical numbers lack these multi-media components, though in that respect the inconsistency works in the show’s favour.
However, the framing device itself is another matter. What begins as a fictional burlesque production breaks down alongside Hedwig’s own mental state, with her stripping down her psyche in the latter half of the show especially. Some aspects still feel unresolved and not in a good way, like the way that Tommy Gnosis figures into the production. This is a problem with the writing of the show itself, though, and Atomic Vaudeville’s execution easily makes up for these weak points.
The Bottom Line:
Between music that kicks ass and a subtle emotional delivery from the leads that will bring you to tears, Hedwig and the Angry Inch will leave you feeling anything by angry.