Friday, September 2, 2011

An Anatomically Incorrect Rock Odyssey

In a couple weeks, Stage West Iowa will be presenting a run of Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Stoner Theater.

I'm not even sure how my brother and I first came across Hedwig, I think we might have been flipping through channels and saw the title Hedwig and the Angry Inch and were like "That sounds fucked up."  And it was...but it was also wonderful.  Great music, messed up characters, and a lessons about coming to terms with who you are and about making the best of your situation.  It quickly became one of my favorite movies.  The movie was based off the musical play created by John Cameron Mitchell.

It is a difficult decision to take a date to Hedwig.  Hedwig is hard to describe...well hard to describe without scaring people off.  It contains cultural taboos like transsexualism, cross dressing, sex change operations, homosexuality, and rock and roll.   But that all just sets the stage for the story and the characters feelings, motivations and the identity crises that are created.  Long story short - in the late 1980's Hansel, an East German boy, gets a sex change operation to emigrate West through the Berlin Wall with his love, an American soldier.  Hansel becomes Hedwig, but the sex change operation doesn't work as planned (that's the angry inch).  A year later, Hedwig is dumped and the Berlin Wall falls.  Stuck in the middle of nowhere, Hedwig decides to become a rock star but her new young lover takes off with all her songs and then strikes it big.  Bitterness, complex relationships, mental breakdowns, and identity crises ensue and coming to terms with it all is the beauty of Hedwig.

Hedwig (the musical, not the movie) takes place during a single concert at Bilgewaters Family Restaurant in <insert your town>.  I saw Stage West Iowa's previous Hedwig endeavor in 2002.  They did a pretty good job.  Hedwig and Yitzhak both did a great job.  And Hedwig is a difficult character to play (I would imagine...I am not an actor), because although she is outrageous and over the top, you can't go so far over the top to be cartoony.  Hedwig has to be likable and relatable...even when the audience has little in common with her (well, I would hope not that many people have chopped off their wieners to get out of East Berlin).  I expected a little more animation from the backing band...even though they aren't a major part of the show, I expected them to be rocking out more and being more like an actual band.  I know Hedwig is the spotlight hog, but I was hoping for more pep from the band.  I think this may have been at least partially intentional - A) Hedwig doesn't want to be outshone, B) band is supposedly bored with Hedwig...but I thought it detracted somewhat from the performance.  I have seen "real" backing bands go both ways - energetic and laid back.  Energetic is always more fun and exciting to watch.  I don't want them to distract from Hedwig, but they can at least look more like they are in a rock band rather than just standing there and playing their instruments.

I am highly looking forward to seeing what they do with Hedwig this time.  I suggest you all check it out too.  If you are able to keep an open mind about the not quite normal sexuality of the characters, you can really enjoy the music...much like Rocky Horror Picture Show.  When you give the music a chance, you will be amazed, it is really a great story.


Shannonnicolle said...

Why did I always think "Hedwig and the Angry Itch" was a childrens book? I appear to have been completely wrong.


Anonymous said...

The run of Hedwig I did took place in a YMCA, which I found fitting. It was fun, but the turn out wasn't that great .. savages. There is video footage on my youtube channel (some balcony view and some drum view).


Michael said...

You flaming homo. I forgot that you did a Hedwig run. I'd watched the videos when you first posted them...I remember your Hedwig actor being a little too manly for my Hedwig tastes...but otherwise it all sounded good. A YMCA? You would think that would have drawn an interested homosexual crowd.

DM's shows in Stoner theater were nearly full every night, but that is not a huge theater.