How shall I start the sonnet that will be my love poem to Hedwig and the Angry Inch? This is what I mean when I say a show exceeds the sum of it’s parts, this is a show that tips from good to exceptional, from merely entertaining to a Theatrical Experience…in case I’m being too subtle, I really loved, loved, loved this show! From opening chord to a well earned standing ovation (first I’ve given this week) I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve known of Hedwig, have a basic understanding of the plot, have heard the some of the music performed by others but I quite intentionally did not read up on it or read reviews (although it’s hard to when they’re being tweeted from the rooftops,) once I decide to see a show I stay away from all that, I want to go with the fewest number of preconceptions and allow the show to be the show. Does that make sense? Anyway that’s my approach to theater.
Words cannot do justice to what they did on stage and really by they I mean Neil Patrick Harris, not to take away anything from Lena Hall, she’s quite excellent in her own right, or the phenomenal band, but this show rises and falls with NPH, period. It can be incredibly difficult for a popular actor who is a certain character in the lexicon of the audience to over come that perception, people love Doogey and Barney and many people are there to see Neil Patrick Harris but what they get from the beginning is Hedwig. The costuming goes along way in helping with that transformation, but that bridge will only get you halfway there; Mr. Harris takes us the rest of the way. I was not expecting the show to be as touching as it turned out to be, having heard it described as a punk rock experience (mhmm…preconceptions) I was not anticipating going on this intense emotional journey. We start with this harsh brassy self possessed and hard character and as the evening progresses the inner core of this not undamaged person is revealed to us. The song “Origin of Love” really sets up the narrative, she is just another person looking for love, for her missing half. The song is beautiful and her performance of it, or I suppose his, you’re just going to have to excuse me as my pronouns flip back and forth, almost made me cry. I really feel he held nothing back emotionally or physically, it was all laid out on the stage. And speaking of the physicality of the performance, thank goodness the show isn’t longer, I’m not sure how someone can keep putting in just the physical, forget the emotional part of the performance, day after day. And on a more personal note I’m rather envious of Mr. Harris’s ability to walk, climb, dance and perform in those boots. That is a feat in its self.
Lena Hall, as Yitzhak, is Hedwig’s mirror, her emotional conscience; the person who reminds Hedwig not to define love based on how she has been treated by others. How can you want to be accepted and loved as you are if you cannot accept those you love as they are themselves. Can you put conditions on love? Yizhak, while omni-present, actually says very little in the show, his actions speak loudly enough. He’s made a deal with Hedwig to be in this relationship, to suppress a part of himself for her and you see that restriction chafing throughout the show. Yitzhak too is looking for unconditional love and pushes in his own manner to get it.
This is the journey we take with them, it is a totally immersive experience, once the lights go down just hold on and enjoy the ride. There have been times, a very few times I will say, that I’ve walked out of a show knowing that I had just seen a Tony Award winning performance. I cannot see how this show does not walk away with an arm full of Tony Awards. Finally I need to mention the sound design for this show and whoever was running the sound board; I’ve been to far less raucous shows and have had a hard time understanding the lyrics, not this show, even during the most head banging songs I could understand every lyric. Kudos.
And I’m going to end with this, I didn’t really intend to autograph hound but since the pouring down rain seemed to have driven the faint of heart away…why not.