A history of Hedwig
Barely off to the races with its national tour, Hedwig and the Angry Inch recently finished up a week-long run at Denver’s Buell Theatre. Euan Morton stepped beautifully into the tall shoes of the title character (no small feat, as the 2014 Broadway revival featured a Tony winning performance from Neil Patrick Harris).
If you’re not familiar with this stunner of a rock-musical, it has a long prologue (nicely chronicled in the documentary, Whether You Like It or Not: The Story of Hedwig) to its recent success on the Great White Way.
Hedwig took shape in the 1990s, through the collaboration of John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask. Mitchell fleshed out their creation, in character, onstage at the legendary SqueezeBox (a drag-punk club in NYC). Straddling the gender line, “internationally ignored song stylist” Hedwig Robinson took extreme measures to escape East Germany. Just one year later, the Berlin Wall fell, rendering her act moot. Fate has not been kind to Hedwig, nor have those nearest and dearest to her. Most recently, Tommy Gnosis – Hedwig’s one-time protege (and possible soul-mate) – is now a hugely successful rock star, having stolen Hedwig’s material.
In 2001, it made it to the big screen with an underseen gem of a film. The splendid transition is thanks to Trask’s exhilarating soundtrack and Mitchell’s definitive performance as Hedwig (at turns achingly sympathetic, bitingly funny, and infuriatingly narcissistic).
Whatever incarnation you are visiting, Hedwig remains a love letter to punk/glam/rock; a truly singular vision that hilariously and heartbreakingly explores identity, and what it means to be whole.