Seeing Michael C. Hall in Hedwig and the Angry Inch a few weeks ago made me weirdly thankful that I don’t currently live in NYC because I immediately realized that if I did, I would be spending money I don’t have to see this show over and over again.
I actually debated if I should even write this review because I don’t have very much to say that’s at all critical. Hedwig was hands down my favorite thing I saw during this trip to New York. I had VERY high expectations- I love the music and have been dying to see it ever since Neil Patrick Harris opened the production last spring. When I learned that one of my favorite actors, Michael C. Hall, would be playing the role during my trip, I couldn’t even believe how perfectly things were working out. The show completely lived up to the hype. It is the rare 90-minute show that I found myself wishing was longer because I didn’t want it to end. As soon as I left the theater, I found myself immediately wishing I could see it again.
For those who don’t know, Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a rock musical about a fictional band fronted by Hedwig, a transgender woman who had botched sex change surgery, resulting in an “angry inch.” The show debuted Off-Broadway in 1998, became a cult favorite, and was adapted into a movie in 2001. The current production is the first Broadway production of the show and is directed by Michael Mayer. My two most frequently visited shows, Spring Awakening and American Idiot, were both also directed by Mayer, so it should come as a surprise to no one that I loved his Hedwig as much as I did.
Neil Patrick Harris (who won the 2014 Tony Award for Lead Actor in a Musical) and Andrew Rannells both did limited runs in the title role before Michael C. Hall took over. Hall was first on Broadway in Cabaret in 1999 and has also been in Chicago and last summer’s play The Realistic Joneses. He is, of course, best known for his television roles in Dexter and Six Feet Under. While I have not gotten to see anyone else as Hedwig, I loved Hall’s interpretation. His acting was stunning, his voice was incredibly strong, and he brought both humor and vulnerability to the part. The role of Hedwig is a marathon- the lead actor is onstage for the entire 90 minutes. Add to that the ridiculously high heels, demanding rock score, and elaborate wigs and makeup and performing the show 8 times a week is a very impressive achievement.
Lena Hall (no relation to Michael) is still playing Yitzhak, Hedwig’s husband, the role for which she won a Supporting Actress Tony in 2014. To be honest, during the first hour of the show when Ms. Hall was mostly relegated to the background, I was confused as to how she could have beaten out such a deep field for that award. In the final 20 minutes, however, she nearly steals the show. As her character comes into the spotlight and she gets to show off her insane vocal range, it is clear that she deserves all of the praise and recognition she has received.
While Hedwig is known for its rock and roll score, some of my favorite moments in the show are the quieter ones. My favorite song in the show is “The Origin of Love”, which is based on a story from Plato’s Symposium that Hedwig references throughout the musical. The song tells a very beautiful tale of how in ancient times, humans were made up of two people stuck back to back. The gods grew jealous and split them in half, leaving humans to spend the rest of their lives looking for their lost other half. “That’s the pain, cuts a straight line down through the heart- we call it love” Hedwig sings. Hedwig is, as so many of us are, just searching for her other half, and that is what her story is about: pain, love, self-discovery, and struggling to find your place in the world. While I will not spoil the ending for anyone who is unfamiliar, by the end of the show Hedwig makes a major choice about her own life, identity and future.
I cannot recommend this show enough. It is 90 minutes of non-stop entertainment that is brilliantly performed and staged. Michael C. Hall concluded his run last week, but John Cameron Mitchell, the writer of the musical’s book as well as the original Off-Broadway Hedwig, is reprising the role he created for a limited run beginning tonight, January 21st. For tickets and more information visit http://hedwigbroadway.com/.