Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Some musicals take the audience by the hand and gently lead them through a story. This is not the case with Signature Theatre's most recent offering, Hedwig And The Angry Inch. Instead, this energetic production grabs you by the scruff of the neck and propels you into a world of hard driving rock pieces, outrageous wigs, and snappy one-liners.
However, this show is more than that. It is a journey of self-discovery and acceptance. At the center of this rock musical is Hedwig, a transsexual performer from East Germany. Hedwig is backed up by her band, The Angry Inch. Together, they perform a number of pieces that vary from being loud and vigorous to emotionally stirring. All the while, Hedwig relates her personal history that includes her childhood as a boy, her involvement with an American GI, and her subsequent botched sex change operation.
The book was penned by John Cameron Mitchell, who won the Best Director Award at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival for the film version of the show. The combination of Mr. Mitchell's clever text and Stephen Trask's intriguing score has resulted in musical that is both irreverent and moving.
Hedwig is magnificently played by Rick Hammerly (pictured at right). He is the absolute embodiment of this brazen character. He tosses around quips easily and almost seems to be playing with the audience for his own amusement. However, Mr. Hammerly is also skilled at portraying the more serious side of the character. When he conveys Hedwig's past disappointments, it is with heartbreaking honesty.
Mr. Hammerly also has a fine voice and proves that he can handle this very intense score. He is accompanied by Lynn Filusch (Yitzak) who occasionally manages to grab the spotlight with some terrific vocals and a number of very funny moments. The band, The Angry Inch, is excellent and adds to the total experience.
Director Eric Schaeffer uses his actors well and ultimately succeeds in bringing home the message of the piece. However, one can't talk about this show and not mention Anne Kennedy's outstanding costumes. Ms. Kennedy's bold designs are right on the mark.
The Signature is known to take chances from time to time. This is certainly one of those times and they have come up with a winner. Hedwig And The Angry Inch runs through May 5th.
The Angry Inch