Cult favourite Hedwig hits Baby Grand

Hedwig (Jack Ecker) belts out another Angry number.
Hedwig (Jack Ecker) belts out another Angry number.
Credit: 
Matt Naporowski

What do you get when you cross rock ’n’ roll with musical theatre and dressing in drag? The answer is simple: Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Written by John Cameron Mitchell, this play is more of a rock spectacle than a glossy musical. Directed by Rachel VandenAssem, Hedwig tells the tale of a transsexual named Hedwig, in which case the “head-wig” is obviously a creative play on words. It is set in a small venue, which makes the Baby Grand a good choice by the production team, as it is perfectly fit to decorate a small, “hole in the wall” venue.

The story begins with the introduction of Hedwig herself, played by Jack Ecker. Flashback storytelling allows the audience to understand the creation of this colorful character. Throughout the performance, a both comical and touching story unfolds before an unsuspecting audience. The story tells the tale of a man who, after being convinced of being in love, undergoes an unfortunate botched sex-change. After finally overcoming the sadness of losing both his “partner” and “part,” Hedwig is dealt yet another blow when her next love interest steals her songs and moves on to become a “sold-out-concert-playing” rock star. In an attempt to save her dignity, Hedwig decides to follow him on his successful tour. And so, the tour of Hedwig and her unique band begins. The music in this production is played by a live band including the lovely voice of “Yitzhak,” played by Meredith Slack. The other members include: Dean Porinsky who dubs as both musical director and player, David Wencer, Billy Holmes, Connor Thomson and Paul Hopson. The production is guided by this team of musicians, who are able create the sense of a real rock show, despite the small space.

Costume creativity for this production is used to the designers’ full advantage. Embellished with sparkles and bright colors, Hedwig’s attire throughout the play adds to the outrageous storyline. And of course, what would a drag queen do without a bombshell blonde wig? Parts of this production give the audience the sense of being at a cheap comedy show in some slimy bar, including drum roll-punctuated punch lines. But, however dismal this description may sound, it’s all in keeping with the theme.

The production goes a long way towards a real sense of intimacy with the audience. This is brought on by Hedwig sharing personal tribulations in her monologues. Interestingly enough, it makes you question whether the uncensored divulging is meant for shock value or good, old-fashioned honesty. The actual space the actors use is kept at a minimum and, at times, feels like looking into a dark corner filled with musicians and a drag queen. Some specific lighting cues permit the sense of more colorful scenes, but the true colors are shown through the contrast between Hedwig and her bandmates. The contrast is obvious from the get-go and there is never a question of who takes up most of the spotlight. The most striking of contrasts is between Hedwig and Yitzhak; the two have a more interactive relationship and as a result, it sparks curiosity. Questions arise that only the continuation of plot development can reveal.

Performing at Kingston’s Baby Grand, the show’s opening night is Sept. 15 and it runs until Sept 19. Entering into this production with an open mind won’t allow you to leave feeling betrayed. If your taste buds choose rock over Broadway, then Hedwig and the Angry Inch is one rocker you shouldn’t miss.

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