(Euan Morton as Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, currently at Knight Theater.)

 

In the middle of HB2 arguments and same-sex marriage conversations, Blumenthal Performing Arts decides to shake things up even further in Charlotte by adding “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” to its roster of shows this spring. Chronicling the life of a genderqueer character from East Berlin, the play touches on a plethora of unfortunate incidences experienced on a journey to mediocre fame.

John Cameron Mitchell wrote the book of the same name and loosely based the main character on his childhood German babysitter, who moonlighted as a prostitute after her divorce. Mitchell, a gay man, stayed close to this complex storyline. He actually based Hedwig’s nemesis ex-lover, Tommy Gnosis, on himself.

Euan Morton reprises the role of Hedwig, an over-dramatic, afflicted drag queen, who still wallows in the pain of her childhood abandonment. Though, in a heterosexual marriage, Morton is no stranger to LGBTQ roles and clearly doesn’t shy away from them. He originated the role of Boy George in the musical Taboo in London and New York in 2002 and 2003 and was nominated for an Olivier and a Tony Award for his performance.

Hedwig struts the stage in several inch high heels, a denim ensemble, and loads of artistically applied makeup. Her heavy eyeshadow mimics her moods – blue but glittery. There is a glimmer of hope between the explicit sexual jokes and horrific moments of truth. Hedwig wants to be loved like most, except by the wrong people – like many. At times she brags about her current companion, former Jewish drag queen Yitzhak (Hannah Corneau), but condemns him often, when she’s feeling confident. The one thing that brings Hedwig’s ego down a notch is reminiscing about the success of her ex, Tommy, who is frequently and coincidentally nearby throughout the performance.

He exists on a stage through a rusty back door, that also resembles her mind. He lives there, in her mind, playing the music he stole from her, just as he played and stole her heart. Yitzhak, however, remains by her side even being mistreated regularly, longing for the fame he could’ve had. Vocal battles often ensue between the two entertainers, with Hedwig shouting down her talented lover and even disconnecting his microphone as he blows the audience away.

There is an understated band of cast members that supports the singer. She’s dubbed them The Angry Inch, in honor of what’s left of her manhood. The entire ensemble makes beautiful music together from beginning to end. Morton’s vocals rival any heavy metal punk-rock alternative bunch within the last two decades. Corneau is even more impressive, though she doesn’t get enough shine (it is in fact mostly about Hedwig). Her vocal range is far beyond what I expected. Tell me the entire band will play a concert somewhere and I’m there.  Stephen Trask created the music and lyrics and proved versatile with different melodies that moved the story along and filled in any cracks missed in the dialogue.

Scenic Designer, Julian Crouch, Costume Designer, Arianne Phillips, Lighting Designer, Kevin Adams, and Animators, Phosphene and John Bair worked together to create an emotionally charged show with a powerful message to boot.

For more information visit www.blumenthalarts.org.

Image courtesy of Joan Marcus