Mu­si­cal goes the dis­tance “Hed­wig and the An­gry Inch”

‘Hed­wig and the An­gry Inch’ rocks

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - Showtime - Palm Beach - - ON STAGE - By Chris­tine Dolen

Wrap­ping up the first sea­son in its sleek new home at the Pom­pano Beach Cul­tural Cen­ter, Outre Theatre Com­pany has trans­formed its large-scale per­for­mance space into a place where the sto­ry­telling feels in­ti­mate, provoca­tive and wildly the­atri­cal.

“Hed­wig and the An­gry Inch,” that dif­fi­cult-to-cat­e­go­rize mu­si­cal by John Cameron Mitchell and com­poser-lyri­cist Stephen Trask, kicks butt and takes names. If you hap­pen to be wear­ing socks, stars Mike Westrich and Kat Gold, backed by the tight An­gry Inch band, will knock them off. Maybe make them spon­ta­neously com­bust.

First pro­duced off-Broad­way two decades ago, the Obie- and Tony Award-win­ning “Hed­wig” in­ter­twines its nar­ra­tive with a score that hops from glam rock to punk to aching laments.

Gen­derqueer and sex­u­ally frank, full of hu­mor and rage and sor­row, the mu­si­cal leaves a bit of room for top­i­cal cracks. As the com­pli­cated ti­tle char­ac­ter, Westrich obliges with coolly de­liv­ered zingers aimed at the cur­rent pres­i­dent, his wife, TV talker Megyn Kelly and a nearby the­ater com­pany.

Be­tween the show’s pow­er­ful mu­si­cal num­bers, the ac­tor fills the au­di­ence in on Hed­wig’s rocky life story.

Born Hansel Sch­midt, the self­de­scribed “slip of a girly boy” grew up in communist East Ber­lin. Aban­doned by his fa­ther, un­nat­u­rally close to his aloof mother, Hansel was wooed and won by a G.I. named Luther Robin­son, who­pro­posed and of­fered a new life in the United States. One hitch: Gay mar­riage wasn’t le­gal, and a phys­i­cal exam would be re­quired to prove Luther was mar­ry­ing a young woman. Hence, the quickie botched gen­der-re­as­sign­ment surgery that would make Hed­wig’s sex life way more com- pli­cated go­ing for­ward.

Life in a Kansas trailer park proved no eas­ier. Aban­doned by her hubby, Hed­wig keeps body and soul to­gether by do­ing many things — some il­le­gal — and even­tu­ally meets the guy she con­sid­ers her soul­mate.

Tommy Speck is a glass­eswear­ing Army brat, a de­vout Chris­tian with mu­si­cal am­bi­tions that Hed­wig en­cour­ages by writ­ing what will prove to be Tommy’s best songs. She rechris­tens him “Tommy Gno­sis,” his new last name be­ing the Greek word for knowl­edge. His ca­reer as­cen­dant, Tommy head­lines large venues (in­clud­ing one that is sup­pos­edly next door), leav­ing the dis­carded Hed­wig to a life of play­ing “seedy” clubs like the one in which we find our­selves.

Re­mar­ried to a for­mer drag queen named Yitzhak (Kat Gold), the stoic fre­quent ob­ject of Hed­wig’s ver­bal abuse, the not-soglam rocker has just been caught up in a scan­dal in­volv­ing Tommy. And so, re­flect­ing on her life be­tween killer mu­si­cal num­bers, Hed­wig is melan­choly, play­ful, cruel, funny and mov­ing.

Staged by artis­tic direc­tor Skye Whit­comb, Outre’s “Hed­wig” is mag­netic.

Sport­ing a big-hair blond wig and the char­ac­ter’s ex­ag­ger­ated Where: Pom­pano Beach Cul­tural Cen­ter, 50 W. At­lantic Blvd. When: Through April 8. Pom­pano Beach Cul­tural Cen­ter, 50 W. At­lantic Blvd. Cost: Tick­ets cost $39 ($19 stu­dents and in­dus­try tick­ets). Con­tact: 954-545-7800, CCPom­ or OutreTheatreCom­ glit­ter makeup, Westrich ex­er­cises ab­so­lute power over a rapt au­di­ence, though a few seem ner­vous that Hed­wig may stroll over to flirt or perch on a lap (the jit­ters are jus­ti­fied, by the way).

Westrich is, plain and sim­ple, among South Florida’s finest mu­si­cal-the­ater ac­tors, and his mov­ing, emo­tion­ally var­ied, un­wa­ver­ing com­mand in “Hed­wig” is mag­nif­i­cent. He also hap­pens to pos­sess a great rock voice and de­liv­ers pow­er­house per­for­mances of the songs, in­clud­ing the haunt­ing “Wicked Lit­tle Town.”

As Hed­wig’s tac­i­turn other half, Gold com­mu­ni­cates with looks and gri­maces, but wow, can she sing. Some­times play­ing gui­tar, Yitzhak chimes in on many songs with back­ing vo­cals or duet pas­sages, and Gold’s pow­er­ful voice blends per­fectly with Westrich’s. When she claims the spot­light to sing “The Long Grift,” she owns that mo­ment (and many more).

Mu­si­cal direc­tor Caryl Fan­tel, go­ing for a goth vibe, plays the key­board (and does her own bits of backup singing) in the on­stage band, which also fea­tures Ru­pert Zi­aw­in­ski on bass, Greg Min­nick on gui­tar and Evan Kline on per­cus­sion.

Set de­signer Daimien Mather­son, cos­tume de­signer Erin Charles, light­ing de­signer Cliff Spu­lock and sound de­signer Todd Sil­ver pro­vide the in­ti­macy, era touch­stones and mu­si­cal mix nec­es­sary for “Hed­wig” to land as it should.

South Florida’s rich 2017-2018 the­ater sea­son con­tin­ues, but Outre’s “Hed­wig” will make it­self scarce way too soon, clos­ing April 8. Westrich, Gold and the show eas­ily claim a place among the sea­son’s best ex­pe­ri­ences.


Kat Gold plays Hed­wig’s hus­band Yitzhak in the dif­fi­cult-to-cat­e­go­rize mu­si­cal by John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask.

Mike Westrich plays the gen­der-com­pli­cated rocker Hed­wig in Outre Theatre Com­pany’s “Hed­wig and the An­gry Inch.”

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