Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Then came Tommy, and it was by the Who for god's sake. How much more rock can you get? Well, the story was convoluted and simply didn't make sense, and while that's never an issue in musicals, rock has to make sense on a visceral level. The song "Pinball Wizard" makes sense, but there's tons of connective tissue in Tommy that fall of the cliff.
After that we got Godspell, Dreamgirls, The Capeman, Jersey Boys, Rock of Ages, and many others. Some are good, but not really rock. The only shows I think have really rocked in the last few decades are American Idiot and Hedwig and the Angry Inch. And I'll put down my marker that Hedwig (book by John Cameron Mitchell, music and lyrics by Stephen Trask) out rocks American Idiot for its unremitting anger and edge. No hopeful ending, no sweet acoustic number to put the world back together. Hedwig is in that Joan Didion place of not wanting the wounds to healthe dark resentment is too precious a focus in the pure punk defiance. Hedwig despises the world every bit as much as Iggy and Lou Reed. Now that's punk, and punk's rock, whether we like it or not.
The gender-bending botched trans element just adds to Hedwig's fury. Hedwig's got a bone to pick with the world. She was a sensitive boy born on the wrong side of the Cold War, and got a raw deal with her angry incha sex change operation gone horribly awry. She was dumped by her one true love who managed to steal a chunk of her creativity for good measure. Yet Hedwig would have been furious with the world under any conditions. Call it karma. Hedwig was born to tear up the world in a dingy bar with a tough band and a small but dark following.
Director Brian Clifton delivers a powerful production at Musical Theatre Southwest. There is a nice band in in Laurie Lopez (keyboard), Bryan Gonzales (bass), Hovey Jude Corban (drums), and Chris Deminsky (guitar). They do a commendable job, though they were not quite full-pocket on opening night. That will likely improve over the next three weekends. The set by Ditch Tree Enterprises is dingy excellent, and there is nice lighting by Lucas Zuniga and solid sound by Jordan Franklin.
The story is set up at a gig in a club. The songs come through as an informal concert with banter between numbers as Hedwig tells her rough story.
Johnathan Gallegos (Hedwig) and Kir Kipness (Yitzhak, Hedwig's drag queen lover, though more of a foil) deliver far beyond what I expected. It's not easy to do rock or punk on command; authenticity is critical. It's gotta be in the voice, it's gotta be in every movement. Most of the performance centers on Gallegos. Kipness has less to do, mostly playing off Hedwig. She does a terrific job of it, but Gallegos is the star, the central figure around which everything turns. One false gesture could deflate it all, and Gallegos makes no false moves. It's quite a thing to see.
Bravo to a solid production by Clifton and his team in the difficult work of getting rock and punk right, and a whole handful of bravos to Gallegos for his amazing work as Hedwig.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch runs through November 10, 2019, at Musical Theatre Southwest's Black Box theatre, 6320 Domingo Rd. NE, Albuquerque NM. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. General admission is $25. For seniors, students, and ATG members, admission is $23. For tickets and information, call 505-265-9119 or visit mtsabq.org.