By Seth Reines, October 2017 Issue.
Once upon a time, there was a boy named Hansel, born in Communist East Berlin during the height of the Cold War. He always dreamed of finding his “other half” and becoming an American rock star. When a handsome American GI, promised him love and liberation, it seemed that his dreams had all come true. But, in order to marry and emigrate, Hansel had to “leave something behind.”
Surviving a botched sex change operation that left her with an “angry inch,” Hedwig was deserted in a Kansas trailer park by her GI, who left her for a younger man on the very day the Berlin Wall came down. Undaunted, Hedwig donned flamboyant glam makeup and Farrah Fawcett wig and formed a rock band named The Angry Inch.
While supporting herself with babysitting gigs, Hedwig fell in love with a 16-year-old Jesus freak who stole her songs and became the rock star Hedwig had always dreamed of being. But refusing to be defeated, Hedwig continued to perform in dive bars and restaurants while searching for recognition, retribution and reconciliation with her “other half.”
Created by John Cameron Mitchell, the original off-Broadway Hedwig, and Stephen Trask, Hedwig And The Angry Inch is an innovative, heartbreaking, wickedly funny rock musical following Hedwig’s tale of survival and self-discovery.
“[Hedwig is] a little bit of everything. She’s a bit gay man, a bit drag queen, a bit genderqueer. She’s not really trans – she’s accidental trans. She’s an outsider in every possible way,” Mitchell said. “In many ways Hedwig is a metaphor for any outsider and the reason why audiences have been drawn to her over the years. Now that trans and queer issues are not so alien, I think she’s even more relatable.”
This month, Hedwig finally makes its professional Phoenix premiere in a collaborative production by Phoenix Theatre and A/C Theatre Company, known for its passionate, intriguing and edgy productions.
Playing Hedwig is actor/singer Caleb Reese, who has starred in Phoenix Theatre’s Bullets Over Broadway, The Toxic Avenger, End of the Rainbow, Les Miserables and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.
“Hedwig is a shining pillar of hope for so many wonderful people in our society, and her story must be told with respect and sincerity,” he said.
This role, Reese admitted, brought with it many new experiences.
“First, there is the physical transformation to play the role. A lot of my summer has been in the gym and away from restaurants,” he admitted. “Next is the dialect of Hedwig. The German accent is one I’ve never tried and I have been working with a dialect coach in New York to help smooth out the process. And last, but not least, is having to perform the whole show in heels, fake eyelashes and a corset, which are all firsts for me.”
The show will be directed by Pasha Yamotahari, Phoenix Theatre’s associate producing director and star of last year’s Phoenix Theatre hit In The Heights.
“What makes Hedwig an important show for the LGBTQ community,” Yamotahari explained, “[is that] this is not only a show, but an important experience for everyone in the community. This experience celebrates with a beautiful mélange of triumph and tragedy, [and] the roads we all take in accepting who we are and striving to become who we want to be … a universal theme to all of us.”
Pasha, who spent most of his life in Iran, Canada and France and trained with Cirque du Soleil, discussed the uniqueness of the Phoenix production.
“We spent a lot of time in concept chats about celebrating the origins of the show and its original development in the 1990s via bar and club concerts, creating a functional and enchanting Phoenix dive bar as our set,” he said. “Our bar celebrates some of the famous bars that have come and gone in the Valley …. Patrons will have the ability to sit in our fictional bar and be front and center for Hedwig and The Angry Inch – and the naughtiness she will bring!”
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Sept. 20-Nov. 12
100 E. McDowell Road, Phoenix
Tickets: $35-$95; 602-254-2151