Balagan Theater starts the year off with everyone's favorite Eastern Block rock goddess, Hedwig and her swarthy band The Angry Inch. Co-produced with STG, "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" is an Obie Award-winning off-Broadway show by creators John Cameron Mitchell (who also originated the role of "Hedwig") and Stephen Trask. A film version was released in 2000 and has developed a devoted cult following, with good reason.
A tale of sexual identity, loyalty, and the almighty rock'n'roll, "Hedwig" travels the hard-knock road of the titular character and her band as they traipse across the country setting the record straight. More a concert confessional than a play, the audience is treated to a barrage of mind-blowing songs including "Origins of Love," "Wig in a Box," and the tender "Wicked Little Town," intertwined with the autobiographical back story of the deliciously vain protagonist, the victim of a botched sex-change operation. Through song and stinging commentary, she reveals details of her love affair with the now famous Tommy Gnosis, and the true composer of his number one hits.
However, beyond the sass, Hedwig is a lost human being, searching for her soul mate and herself (whichever comes first). The lyrics betray the bitter anger and aching loneliness that pulse beneath her irrepressible swagger and sarcasm. Hedwig's journey is all the more stirring because the performer under the wig is the best you will ever see.
Jerick Hoffer as "Hedwig" is absolutely incredible. Every wonderful thing you hear about him is 100% true. Hoffer has had one heck of a year as a drag queen, recently seen at The 5th Avenue as "Angel" in "RENT" and as a contestant on RuPaul's Drag Race (season premiere January 28 on Logo TV). He is also known to many in Seattle as preeminent drag queen chanteuse Jinkx Monsoon, host of the popular "An Evening at Le Faux" weekly celebrity impersonation show at Julia’s on Broadway. As Hedwig, he is inspired, from the glittery red lips to the killer ankle boots and the notorious potty-mouth tinged with a German accent. And what pipes! Hoffer's Hedwig is vicious and vulnerable, sweet and snarky, beautiful and monstrous. When the posters say "Jerick Hoffer is Hedwig," this is not an exaggeration. Truly the performance of a lifetime. There isn't a number in the show that doesn't captivate.
Erin Stewart as Hedwig's husband "Yitzhak" is also an excellent singer, melting into Hoffer's vocals flawlessly. Yitzhak's quiet resentment and pain is palpable, even as he lurks in the back with a stone face. The irony of Hedwig's driving desperation to be rightfully recognized as an artistic genius is never so poignant as when she brushes Yitzhak's own aspirations aside.
The Angry Inch features several musicians from The Walkabouts, 1uppers, Zony Mash, and Swallo. Together they are superb -- they compliment Hoffer perfectly, injecting their own personalities without upstaging. Ultimately they are there to rock your socks off and they do so handily.
Director Ian Bell did a wonderful job of taking an outrageous show and giving every aspect its due without over- or under-doing it. Hedwig is the star (or she'll cut you), but her accoutrements, be they human, set, or prop, are essential to her story and only enrich the flavor of the performance. The sparse, graffiti-ed stage gives the feel of a filthy dive bar, probably the last venue that will allow Hedwig in the building. Generally when productions use projections, it seems unnecessary at best and distracting at first, but "Hedwig" uses them to perfection, especially during the engrossing stop-animation throughout "The Origin of Love."
This is a show for anyone who has ever felt like they were born into the wrong body. This is a show for anyone who has felt betrayed by someone they loved deeply. This is a show for anyone who has ever been taken for granted. This is a show for anyone who feels invisible. And if somehow you have managed to get through life unmarred by any of these things, this is a show for anyone who loves great music performed by a great band with the most awesome front woman you will ever see. Get to the Moore Theater and see Hedwig in all her glory.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Through January 27
The Moore Theater
1932 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA
For tickets (starting at $25), click here.