Hed­wig and the An­gry Inch is strange, yet won­der­ful

Penticton Herald - - ENTERTAINMENT - By J.P. SQUIRE

Spe­cial to The Okana­gan Week­end Edi­tion

The man­date of the Fred Skele­ton The­atre Com­pany is “to pro­vide the Okana­gan with shows that push boundaries, stretch lim­its, and in­tro­duce the au­di­ence to the sur­pris­ing, the strange and the won­der­ful.”

Hed­wig and the An­gry Inch, at Creek­side The­atre in Lake Coun­try at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 11-13 and 18-20, checks all of those boxes.

The Amer­i­can mu­si­cal com­edy-drama fo­cuses on a fic­tional rock-and-roll band fronted by an East Ger­man gen­derqueer singer. It pre­miered off-Broad­way in 1998, played to record-break­ing sell-out crowds on Broad­way, won four Tony Awards in 2014 and was re­pro­duced in a 2001 Hol­ly­wood film.

The web­site hed­wig­broad­way.com de­scribes it as “a genre-bend­ing, fourth­wall-smash­ing mu­si­cal sen­sa­tion, with a puls­ing score and elec­tri­fy­ing per­for­mances, (that) tells the story of one of the most unique char­ac­ters to ever hit the stage.”

Up against that chal­lenge, the lo­cal the­atre com­pany found Thomas (Tom) Fournier.

Un­like many the­atre com­pa­nies, Fred Skele­ton The­atre doesn’t tell you any­thing about the young man in the pro­gram or on its web­site, fredskele­ton.com. How­ever, all you need to know about him is to see him in this one-man/woman/per­son show as Hansel Sch­midt, “a slip of a girly-boy” from com­mu­nist East Ber­lin who be­comes Hed­wig Robin­son, ‘the in­ter­na­tion­ally ig­nored song stylist barely stand­ing be­fore you.”

He is per­fect as a trans­gen­der woman singer who sur­vives a botched sex change op­er­a­tion. He not only has the vo­cal pipes but he can emote - like no one seen in the Cen­tral Okana­gan in re­cent years.

Over­heard in the open­ing night au­di­ence of about 100, a woman say­ing Fournier was an ex­am­ple to other vo­cal stu­dents of how to put emo­tion into the de­liv­ery of a song.

In ad­di­tion, not only can Fournier por­tray a com­plex gen­der iden­tity but he can ob­vi­ously mem­o­rize reams of a com­pli­cated script, speak­ing to the au­di­ence like a stand-up co­me­dian and singing for two hours non-stop.

It is sim­ply an amaz­ing per­for­mance, per­haps even wor­thy of a big city pro­duc­tion com­pany au­di­tion.

One cau­tion­ary note: this out­ra­geous and un­ex­pect­edly hi­lar­i­ous rock/drag mu­si­cal con­tains adult themes and lan­guage.

Ex­am­ples for a fam­ily news­pa­per are hard to come by, but his en­trance is wear­ing a woman’s dress and cape, long blond wig, fish­net stock­ings and plat­form footwear with six-inch heels.

When the au­di­ence ap­plauded, he re­sponded: “I do love a warm hand on my en­trance. Lots of dirty jokes tonight, folks. Sad­dle up.”

Half­way through, Fournier came off the stage, stood on the arm­rests over a woman seated in the front rows, and did sev­eral pelvic thrusts while croon­ing: “Come on, sugar daddy, bring it home.”

At sev­eral points, the sex­ual in­nu­en­dos are so silly that drum­mer Andy Ash­ley does the “da dum” that of­ten ac­com­pa­nies a zinger at a con­cert. That band — Ash­ley, mu­si­cal direc­tor Neville Bow­man on key­boards, Loni Moger on gui­tar and Ste­fan Bienz on bass — not only plays but re­sponds to Fournier’s an­tics while they are at­tired in or­ange cov­er­alls.

Even the band in­tro­duc­tion at the be­gin­ning of the mu­si­cal was an elec­tri­fied O Canada.

An un­ex­pected treat was Sammi Winskell as Yitzhak, an­other gen­der­bend­ing role of a woman play­ing a hus­band. Her solo croon­ing mid-pro­duc­tion was to die for. The au­di­ence wanted more from her but that had to wait for her fi­nale in a tight-fit­ting gold dress and a reprise of Wicked Lit­tle Town.

If any­thing im­promptu could be added to this lo­cal mu­si­cal’s end­ing, there should have been the sound of a phone call on the the­atre PA sys­tem to Hel­wig (and Fournier) and the mes­sage: “Off-Broad­way call­ing. Can you come in for an au­di­tion?”

Spe­cial to Okana­gan Week­end

Hed­wig and the An­gry Inch is play­ing this week­end at the Creek­side The­atre in Lake Coun­try.

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