TheatreLab’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch was perfection
Do you remember your first time? Mine was in elementary school.
Young, I know, but I was mature. My parents took me to see a performance of Peter and the Wolf. I was entranced.
From the beautiful dress I wore, and the theater space, to the lights and the music. That flute. It was then I began to believe in magic.
Few performances since have provided that same thrill.
And then there was Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Last night’s opening performance of TheatreLab and Spin, Spit & Swear’s co-production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch made me feel as though I was experiencing theater for the very first time.
That same thrill. The afterglow of having been part of something extraordinary. Everything about the performance was pure perfection: the acting, the singing, the band, the incredible space.
The Broadway production of Hedwig has received international attention. Who can forget Neil Patrick Harris’s cover on Rolling Stone in only a bow-tie and a “strategically placed” hat.
Look, Ma, no hands!
I’m going out on a limb to say that I cannot imagine anyone better suited to play Hedwig than Spin, Spit & Swear’s Matt Shofner.
Not even NPH.
Shofner was brilliant. And so was Bianca Bryan as Yitzhak. Her beautiful high voice was the perfect complement to Shofner’s raw and tender sound. I laughed and I cried. I sighed. I applauded with abandon.
The original story is of a fictional rock and roll band fronted by an East German transgender singer. This production brought the story home; Hedwig as an actual performer on tour in RVA performing in a run-down basement while her former lover Tommy [who she helped to stardom] is selling out the Richmond Coliseum.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is heartbreaking, tender, raunchy, sexy, funny and life affirming. Hedwig’s journey from life east of the Berlin wall to the trailer home in Junction City, Kansas where she drunkenly watches on television, alone and angst-filled, that same wall crumble, is poignant. And her stunning moment of personal transformation when she sees herself, and Yitzhak, as though seeing their souls for the first time [and is finally able to let go of Tommy] is *our* story: The weirdoes, the misfits, the pain- addicted, the human.
Maggie Roop says in her Director’s Note that “If you catch her on a good night, you might learn a great deal about Hedwig. Tonight, you may even learn a lesson about yourself that you didn’t expect.”
Roop was right.
I rediscovered a magic I didn’t even recognize I’d been missing. A reconnection with a phantom limb.
I know that it’s not lady-like to gush, particularly as a semi-professional theater critic, but Call me queer – I’ve never been much of a lady, anyway.
My only criticism of the show was that I was not the critic who received a titillating lap dance from Hedwig.
See previous comment about not being a lady (wink, wink). Artistic Director Deejay Gray told me last night that “life just has a funny way of giving you a hug when you work hard enough.”
That was one hell of a group hug. No better way to open a show, and a brand new space. Run, don’t walk, to get your tickets to see Hedwig. It is unforgettable experience.
The show runs through November 29 at The Basement, 300 East Broad Street.
Julie Harthill Clayton is an out and proud bisexual with a passion for reading, writing . . . and NOT arithmetic. Her work has appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, the Internet Review of Books, Curve Magazine, Lambda Literary and more. She is working on her first novel - Two Tickets to Freedom - a semi-autobiographical queer coming-of-age tale. A paralegal by day, Julie spends her free time knitting, writing, and reading anything she can get her hands on. She lives in Richmond with her partner, local artist David Turner, and their mischievous and loving hunting dog, Max.
“A trip to an often forgotten time and place.”May 18, 2017
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