THEATER REVIEW: “Hedwig & the Angry Inch” @ Proctors
Review by Greg Haymes
It’s interesting to see how fringe culture evolves into mainstream entertainment over the years. When “Pink Flamingos” hit the Waverly for the first of its midnight showings, who would have imagined John Waters could ever have a Broadway hit?
And so it is with “Hedwig & the Angry Inch,” which opened a too-short, two-night stand at Proctors in Schenectady on Tuesday. Born nearly two decades ago as an off-Broadway gender-bending, glam-punk musical, the heartbreaking but ultimately life-affirming tale of a search for identity and acceptance landed on Broadway just a few years ago, snagging four Tony Awards. Now it’s rolling across the country with the Scottish Tony Award nominee Euan Morton as the East German genderqueer, bewigged and wigged-out wanna-be rock star whose sexual reassignment surgery went woefully wrong.
It may not quite be a transgender tale – you can debate that if you like – but it’s certainly trans-genre – a stage musical in disguise as a rock concert.
And the onstage four-piece band – Tits of Clay, portraying Hedwig’s band, the Angry Inch – knows how to rock and composer Stephen Trask supplied plenty of ammunition. But they only they only occasionally conjured up the fuck-you punk rock spirit and sense of danger, most notably on the opening “Tear Me Down” and the hellfire rip through “Angry Inch.”
The entire “Hedwig & the Angry Inch” takes place during a gig by Hedwig and the band in a rock dive next door to a big arena where rock star Tommy Gnosis (Hedwig’s ex-lover) is performing. Despite the excellent efforts of scenic designer Julian Crouch and lighting designer Kevin Adams, it’s nearly impossible to make the opulent Proctors feel like a grungy rock club, even if you plop a battered-up junk car centerstage.
Morton carries the show on his shoulders, and he’s up to the task, displaying strutting bravado, angst and a powerful voice, as well as an impressive sense of comic timing during his extended between-tune monologues, especially during the first half of the 100-minute, intermission-less performance. And he drew plenty of laughs from his local shout-outs, name-checking such Greater Nippertown landmarks as Rivers Casino, the Times Union Center and Lark Street.
Shenendehowa High grad Hannah Corneau earned plenty of applause as Hedwig’s husband/back-up singer/whipping boy Yitzhak, and her vocals were on the money, even if she wasn’t always quite thoroughly convincing as a male former drag star.