Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Hedwig And The Angry Inch
Hedwig and the Angry Inch finally comes to San Francisco after a five year delay during which it played in almost every major city in this country. Hedwig opened on Valentine's Day 1998 at the Jane Street Theatre in New York for a two and half year run. The musical walked off with an Obie Award and an Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical. Time Magazine called the show "the most exciting hard rock score written for the theatre since, oh ever." Kevin Cahoon, who has appeared in many Broadway musicals and has played Hedwig in Boston and Edinburgh, Scotland, is appearing in the title role here at the Victoria Theater.
The Victoria Theater is the perfect place for this cabaret rock musical since the theater has been many things over the years. It housed vaudeville, movies and even burlesque. Hedwig gives a brief history of what he calls "a faded shell of a pleasure palace" when it was a burlesque house, and he warns the audience, "Don't touch the seats."
Kevin Cahoon comes out decked in a big blonde wig, his long legs in torn fishnet stockings and an appalling amount of rouge, looking like Joanna Lumley from "Ab Fab" and talking like German film star Hildegarde Neff. The rock group goes into a loud heavy metal rock song that almost blows the walls off this old theater. However, things quiet down and the artist relates the story of his unbelievable life as a German born transvestite. He talks of growing up in East Berlin as a young lad named Hansel, dominated by this strong mother. Still in his teens, Hansel meets and falls in love with an American G.I. The only catch is that the soldier will marry him and take him back to his home in America provided that he has a sex change operation. The doctors do a dreadfully botched operation that leaves him only one inch and Hansel has now become Hedwig. The solder take him back to America where after one year, the serviceman abandons him in a trailer park in Kansas. To make ends meet, Hedwig forms a small club rock group called "the Angry Inch." She becomes a glamrock diva. Hedwig falls in love in a teenaged boy she renames Tommy Gnosis and tutors the boy in rock music. Tommy soon discovers that Hedwig is "more than a woman or a man," deserts Hedwig, and becomes a rock star on his own.
With poignancy and self deprecating humor, Hedwig tells about a recent audience where he and his band performed, saying, "They threw tomatoes. However after the show I had a nice salad." Even with the trashy one liners, Hedwig is desperately sincere about finding that indefinable true love that will determine if he/she is woman or man.
Kevin Cahoon is brilliant in the role of Hedwig. He is invigorating, passionate and very full of life in his performance. Sometimes his voice is not metallic enough but he has great chutzpah in his acting abilities. In one of the amazing scenes toward the end of the show, Hedwig has transformed herself into Tommy to sing the rocking "Midnight Radio." It brings down the house. Stephen Trask's music and lyrics provide a range of songs from hard punk rock to romantic ballad to a wonderful hand clapping country western.
Lisa Engelken delivers a committed electric performance as Yitzhak, who walks and talks like a man but talks and sings like a woman. The band in ghoulish outfits is first rate.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is something to be experience. The rock musical has an open ended run at the Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th, San Francisco. For tickets call 415-863-7576 or visit www.hedwigsf.com.