Posts Tagged ‘stephen trask’

Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Text by John Cameron Mitchell, Music and Lyrics by Stephen Trask
Directed by Jordan Woods
The Q Collective
June 22, 2019

Sarah Gene Dowling, Luke Steingruby
Photo: The Q Collective

It’s fun seeing a show you’ve seen before in a new light. The Q Collective’s small-scale, intimate staging of Hedwig and the Angry Inch at The Monacle is an ideal example of a new venue bringing an additional dimension to a show. The small nightclub setting, combined with excellent staging and an ideal cast makes for a thoroughly entertaining production.

The Q Collective is a newer theatre company that focuses on issues of gender and sexuality. Hedwig and the Angry Inch seems an ideal show for this company, with its exploration of gender identity among other issues. The title of the show has a double meaning for German-American rocker Hedwig (Luke Steingruby). “The Angry Inch” is the name of her band (keyboardist Holly Barber, guitarist J. Michael, bassist John Gerdes, and drummer Joe Winters) but it also refers to the result of a botched surgery that she explains as she tells her story, which details her life growing up as “Hansel” in Cold War East Germany, then meeting an American soldier and becoming “Hedwig”, and later getting involved with an insecure young man who eventually becomes rock star “Tommy Gnosis”. Her relationships with the men in her life, as well as her mother, and with her own identity, form the basis for the show, which is more of a concert than a play. Hedwig is joined onstage by her husband, Yitzhak (Sarah Gene Dowling), who used to have a drag act until he met Hedwig, who refuses to let him perform in drag, much to Yitzhak’s distress. The interplay between the two forms a lot of the drama of the show, in addition to Hedwig’s relationship with Tommy, who mostly appears in Hedwig’s stories and is heard shrouded in mist behind a door as he gives a concert nearby. The songs are rock-based, from more upbeat, driving songs like “Angry Inch” to slower power ballads like “Wicked Little Town”.

The setting at the Monacle brings a lot of realism to the performance. Although Hedwig is an over-the-top personality in many ways, this production brings her closer to the audience and makes her story even more personal and direct. The performances are especially strong, as well, with Steingruby delightfully theatrical as the enigmatic Hedwig. Dowling is also impressive as the longsuffering Yitzhak, who puts up with Hedwig’s moodiness and delivers powerful vocals as well. Steingruby shows off a smooth voice on songs like the memorable “Wig in a Box” and Wicked Little Town”, and Dowling shines as well both in backing vocals and singing lead on “The Long Grift”. The chemistry between the two is excellent, as well, as they portray a credible relationship arc on stage leading up to a dazzling finale.

Production-wise, this may be small scale, but the technical quality is first-rate. From the excellent band led by music director Holly Barber, to impressive lighting by Brian M. Ebbinghaus, to truly dazzling costume, wig, and makeup design by Lauren Smith, this production brings Hedwig’s world to life with remarkable detail. Hedwig and the Angry Inch from The Q Collective has the feel of an edgy indie-rock show in a small club. It’s bold, quirky and edgy, and entirely winning.

The Q Collective is presenting Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Monacle until June 30, 2019

Read Full Post »

Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Text by John Cameron Mitchell, Music and Lyrics by Stephen Trask
Directed by Justin Been
Stray Dog Theatre
March 31, 2016

Michael Baird, Anna Skidis Vargas Photo by John Lamb Stray Dog Theatre

Michael Baird, Anna Skidis Vargas
Photo by John Lamb
Stray Dog Theatre

Stray Dog Theatre has transformed Tower Grove Abbey into a concert venue for their latest production, Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Introducing us to a complex central character and her dramatic story, Hedwig isn’t a traditional musical. With an immersive experience that involves audience interaction and a dynamic lead performance, this show is unique, entertaining, and challenging all the same time.

This is a well-known show that’s had a celebrated off-Broadway run and a film starring co-author John Cameron Mitchell, as well as an award-winning Broadway revival starring Neil Patrick Harris, who was then replaced by a succession of notable stars. It makes sense that a lot of actors would want to portray Hedwig, a complex and interesting character with an unusual and compelling story. Presented as a 1990s-era concert by East German-born rocker Hedwig (Michael Baird), the show explores issues of gender identity, personal fulfillment, the concept of love and soul mates, and more. Hedwig’s story is revealed as she performs a succession of autobiographical songs, through which she tells the story of her upbringing (as Hansel) in East Germany, and then her botched sex reassignment operation, her move to America and the evolution of her career as a performer, including her influence on another, now more famous, rock singer and former lover, Tommy Gnosis. There’s also Hedwig’s husband and bandmate Yitzhak (Anna Skidis Vargas), whose relationship with Hedwig is emotionally fraught, to say the least.

The casting of Hedwig is essential for a production of this show, and SDT has cast very well with Michael Baird. Baird’s emotionally charged, energetic, powerful performance is the centerpiece of this production. Hedwig’s personal journey is reflected well here, with Baird’s winning performance of stand-out songs like “Sugar Daddy”, “Wicked Little Town” and the especially memorable “Wig In a Box”. Baird is matched in intensity by Skidis Vargas as the conflicted, disgruntled Yitzhak, turning in a strong performance especially on “The Long Grift”. They are backed by a top-notch band, as well, led by music director Chris Petersen as Hedwig’s band leader, Skszp, who interacts with Hedwig throughout the performance.

The whole “rock concert” atmosphere is well-realized here. The bar is operating throughout the performance, with audience members encouraged to go up any time to order drinks. The stage set, designed by Rob Lippert, is appropriately representative of a rock music venue, with a two-level stage and scaffolding flanked by video monitors on all sides. The use of projected illustrations and animations by Ryan Wiechmann contributes style and substance to the show, as do the spectacular costumes by Eileen Engel, and the makeup and wig styles by Priscilla Case. Tyler Duenow’s lighting is also appropriately atmospheric.

This is an excellent, highly entertaining production. I did have one issue with the ending, in that the story seemed to be heading in a particular direction and didn’t actually go there, although when I read about the show online, it appears that it usually does end the way I had been expecting, although it doesn’t in this production. I’m not sure what to think about that. Overall, though, I would say this is an energetic, engrossing, well-staged and well-performed production that is very much worth checking out.

Michael Baird and Cast Photo by John Lamb Stray Dog Theatre

Michael Baird and Cast
Photo by John Lamb
Stray Dog Theatre

Hedwig and the Angry Inch is being presented by Stray Dog Theatre at the Tower Grove Abbey until April 16, 2016.

Read Full Post »