Broadway actor Anthony Rapp is making a stunning star turn in the City Theatre production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The show, with book by John Cameron Mitchell and music & lyrics by Stephen Trask, is brash, loud, and wild, yet incredibly poignant. Rapp shows his amazing versatility with this title role.
In rock concert style and with sharp humor, Hedwig tells his life story, that of a young German boy named Hansel who was awakened sexually by an American G.I. who insisted Hansel submit to a sex change operation before they could move to the States together. The operation is botched, leaving a one-inch reminder of Hansel's previous gender. Hansel becomes Hedwig, abandoned and living in a trailer, but thriving on the magic of music. Trying to forge a career in rock music, Hedwig takes a protegé under her wing, an act that results in yet another love lost. Hedwig's young lover becomes Tommy Gnosis, a rock superstar and Hedwig tours small clubs with her band "The Angry Inch," following Tommy, telling her story and searching for her other half.
First an Off Broadway play, with Mitchell as Hedwig and Trask in the band, Hedwig was also made into an excellent film, and has been produced regionally with great success. The music is driving rock played at high volume, but the lyrics are not undecipherable, and the songs help tell the story and divulge the inner feelings of Hedwig.
If you've seen Anthony Rapp in his other stage performance in a title role (Charlie Brown in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown) or in the original Broadway cast of Rent (as Mark), you may not recognize him when he enters the stage as Hedwig. A huge glam-pompadour wig of bleached blonde, blue tutu, thigh-high gold lamé platform boots and accessories combine with a German accent to totally engulf Rapp in the character of Hedwig. His singing voice for this style of music is also unlike what we have heard before; he is a natural rock singer and pours emotion into his singing. Rapp is well prepared and flawlessly performs this role. It is a tour de force performance and a thrill to watch.
Supporting players Sarah Siplak (Yitzak) and musicians John Purse, Daniel Tomko, Brandon Lowry, and A.T. Vish provide solid support and outstanding music. Siplak has an opportunity to show a very strong, first-rate voice.
The set by Michael Olich works seamlessly with lighting by Howell Binkley to fill the stage and utilize projections as well as an ingenious side door, which opens and appears to allow Hedwig to view Tommy's live concert, to allow the show to exceed the boundaries of a concert setting. A raised platform on which Hedwig sings his most revelatory song near the end of the show creates a very affecting scene.
As if to further convince us that we're watching a concert, Hedwig makes comments to the audience about Pittsburgh and the locals. These are funny, but such techniques always make me wonder else what has been changed about the show.
On the mainstage at the City Theatre, Hedwig and the Angry Inch has extended twice and the current ending date is June 27. For ticket information, call 412-431-CITY or visit www.citytheatrecompany.org.