Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a rock’n’roll musical that tells the story of Hedwig, an “internationally ignored song stylist”. Neither man nor woman, this story explores Hedwig’s struggle to find her place in a world that has made no room for her.
Should you see it?
Having heard the hype but never seen Vanity Project’s production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, I entered the Gladstone with high expectations. I was not disappointed.
As people trickled in to fill the seats of the sold-out show, the band was on stage tuning their instruments and chatting to one another. Exactly as you’d see in a small venue concert hall. It became apparent that what I was about to watch was not your typical musical theatre.
The lights dim and Hedwig enters to excited applause and cheers from the audience. The story begins. Told with humour, sincerity, and some amazing music, Hedwig invites us into her life telling us of her childhood in East Berlin, her escape to America, and the identity struggles that came of her botched sex change. It’s a musical with attitude but also a lot of heart.
Directed by Stewart Matthews, the entire evening was very engaging. There were some initial jokes about the Gladstone and Ottawa that helped localize the production and make it seem like an authentic rock concert. A few times Hedwig would interact with the audience by sitting on laps, walking up the aisles and pointing people out. It created an inclusive environment that no large theatre could ever achieve.
Tim Oberholzer’s transformation into Hedwig was astounding. As soon as Hedwig made her first appearance on stage, you completely forgot that you were watching an actor in drag. She was real. Rebecca Noelle’s performance as Hedwig’s husband and former drag queen, Yitzhak, was also incredibly strong. She adopted the mannerisms of a man in a way that didn’t seem awkward or strained. Together these two created the perfect, albeit dysfunctional, duo. And the singing! Oh boy, the singing! I didn’t want them to stop. Such powerful voices. The band, consisting of Stewart Matthews, Steven Lafond, Marc Connor, and Scott Irving (from The Peptides), added the rock element that this musical is known for. My only qualm was the acoustic quality at the Gladstone is not ideal for this sort of music. At times it was difficult to decipher lyrics. Nevertheless, I didn’t let that hinder my enjoyment of the evening.
A lively performance with a lively audience. Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a must-see, as evidenced by the fact that all four shows have sold out. However, if you act fast, they’ve added another late night show on October 4th at 10 pm. Get your tickets!