Photo: Rick Pollock
If, perhaps, you are only familiar with the 2001 film of the same name, please accompany me on a short Hedwig history lesson before we begin this review. Hedwig and the Angry Inch began as a rock musical in 1997 at New York’s Westbeth Theatre Center, written by John Cameron Mitchell (who also directed and played Hedwig in the film adaptation), with music by Stephen Trask (who played Skszp in the film). Before being released nationally, the film adaptation played at Sundance in the same theatre Plan-B is using for their current production: Park City’s Egyptian Theatre. In 2003 and 2005, Plan-B performed Hedwig onstage in Utah, with Aaron Swenson as Hedwig for both runs. Now, in 2012, Plan-B has brought Hedwig and the Angry Inch (and Swenson) back for the 10th anniversary re-boot.
Full disclosure: I minored in Gender Studies and disagree with Hedwig’s character label of “transgender.” Mainly because of the reasons behind the character’s decision to have a sex change in the first place, but also because *spoiler alert* Hedwig returns to a male form at the end of the story. I feel the character is closer to a gay man who enjoys dressing in drag, but the botched sex-change operation makes him difficult for most to classify. Additional full disclosure: I’m a total Hedhead and, regardless of my opinions toward Hedwig’s mislabeling, I listen to the movie soundtrack more often than would be considered healthy.
Now, let’s talk about the show. Aaron Swenson owns this role. Let’s face it: There’s a reason Plan-B have cast him in all three of their productions of Hedwig, and it’s not because he can sing the fuck out of “Wig in A Box.” Well, I’m sure that helped him get cast, but mainly Swenson doesn’t just play Hedwig for the show—he becomes Hedwig for the show. In fact, Swenson has been running a Twitter account as Hedwig Robinson (under the screen name @DustyMenses, an account you should absolutely follow) since mid-February, and he captures the essence of Hedwig beautifully. In addition to playing Hedwig, Swenson is also in charge of Costume Design for this production—and after you see the things he does in heels, you’ll agree he needs a high five for that action.
On stage with Swenson are Latoya Rhodes as Yitzhak, Camden Chamberlain (Guitar) and Van Christensen (Drums) of Suicycles fame, Dave Evanoff (Keys/Guitar) and Adam Overacker (Bass). Christensen and Evanoff both appeared in previous Plan-B productions of Hedwig, and their “senior” status shows through in the music, all of which sounds solid and impeccably passionate. Rhodes throws down the high notes as if she had a pack of them just sitting in her back pocket, especially during “I Will Always Love You.” The band really brings the rock to this glam rock production and easily throws down the best rendition of “Angry Inch” I’ve ever heard.
Even if you’re not a fan of poking a bit of fun at gender, you should still come see this show to appreciate the amazing music within it. The opening song, “Tear Me Down,” will have you on your feet and falling in love with the characters from the very start. But “Origin of Love” is something everyone should experience live. The song is inspired from Aristophanes’ speech in Plato’s Symposium, which suggests humans once consisted of three sexes … It’s hard to explain—Google it, kids. Whether you’re a longtime fan or someone new to the show, put on your best wig and get your ass up to Park City—this one is just too damn good to miss.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch runs June 8-17 at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main Street, Park City. And yes, you can get a cabaret table right up front.