Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Also see Richard's review of Katya: A Bittersweet 90s Symphony
Hedwig and the Angry Inch has come roaring into the Golden Gate with hometown idol Darren Criss and Lena Hall starring in the new national tour. Hedwig and I go a long way backI originally saw John Cameron Mitchell at the Jane Street Theatre during the winter of 1998 and then in London in 2000 with Michael Cerveris playing Hedwig, plus productions at the Victoria Theatre and Boxcar Theatre where they had 12 actors playing Hedwig.
Darren Criss is decked out in a big blonde wig and a short skirt, with his long legs shows looking like a cross between Joanna Lumley from "Absolutely Fabulous" and local drag artist D'Arcy Drollinger as Champagne White, talking like German film star Hildegard Neff. He attacks the role with a vengeance and he adds a bellicose enthusiasm to the physical part of the role as he struts about the stage and into the audience. Criss's voice is dynamic and his ballads are dazzling.
Hedwig talks of growing up in East Berlin as a young lad named Hansel, dominated by his strong mother. Still in his teens, Hansel meets and falls in love with an American soldier. The only catch is that the soldier will marry him and take him back home in America provided that he has a sex change operation. The doctor performs a dreadfully botched operation that leaves him with only one inch and Hansel has now become Hedwig.
After a year, the ex G.I. abandons Hedwig in a trailer park in Kansas. To make ends meet, Hedwig forms a small club rock group called "The Angry Inch" and becomes a glam rock diva. Hedwig falls in love with a teenage boy she renames Tommy Gnosis and she tutors the boy in rock music. Tommy soon becomes a rock star on his own and he deserts Hedwig. Even with trashy one liners, Hedwig is desperately sincere about finding that indefinable true love that will determine if he/she is woman or man.
Stephen Trask's score provides a range of song styles, from hard punk rock to romantic ballads. Hedwig transforms himself at the end to Tommy Gnosis and passionately sings "Midnight Radio." Lena Hall magnetically performs cheekily irritated Yitzhak, who walks and talks like a man but sings like a woman. Hall is sublime when singing "The Long Grift" with effervescent vocal cords. (Lena Hall will play Hedwig October 12, 19 and 26).
Lighting designer Kevin Adams' color palettes along with Benjamin Pearcy projections are breathtaking, especially when Hedwig sings "The Origin of Love" and a scrim is lowered in front of the band and a set of images interrelate with the figure of Hedwig singing, creating a stunning three-dimensional scene. Michael Meyers directs this gorgeous show with a frenzy of visual effects. The small band consisting of music director Justin Craig on guitar and keyboard, Matt Duncan on bass, Tim Mislock on second guitar, and Peter Yanowitz on drums terrifically supports Hedwig.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch plays through October 30, 2016, at the Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor Street, San Francisco For tickets call 888-746-1799 or visit www.shnsf.com. For more information on the tour, visit hedwigbroadway.com.