After Thursday’s preview performance of Zach & Zack’s production of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” a woman whom I have frequently seen with a fellow reviewer at shows, but whom I have never formally met came up to me and said, “I bet you didn’t know what you were getting into when you came to see this.” Puzzled, I looked at her and said, “What makes you think that?” The fact is I had seen the 2002 Phoenix Theatre “Hedwig” production featuring Blaine Hogan in a performance I will always remember for its brilliance. So yes, dear lady, I knew exactly what to expect and happily, I was not disappointed.
Like the Phoenix production which was held in the theatre’s lower-level space, producer Zach Rosing and director Zack Neiditch’s choice of the Epilogue Theatre ensured an effective blend of a theatre and a cabaret-style rock club experience, a concept intended by John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask, the musical’s creators. The intimate 50-seat Epilogue venue is an ideal space for Hedwig Schmidt, an East German singer, to connect with the audience. Tim Hunt, the actor who plays the genderqueer (a combination of male and female genders) artist turned in a spectacular, multi-dimensional, nuanced performance as the “slip of a girlyboy” who moves to America after a botched sex-change operation. The connection Hunt made via his flamboyant character was evident in the transfixed faces and enthusiastic audible responses of a crowd clearly delighted by his colorful, supercharged performance, in which he demonstrated his equally potent acting and vocal skills.
As the show commences, Hedwig recounts her troubled life story while performing a concert, detailing her childhood abuse, a disastrous marriage to an American G.I. whom she followed to Kansas for a life of isolation. There, she falls in love and begins a songwriter collaboration with a Christian teen who becomes a rock star. Obsessed with her former lover, Tommy Gnosis, Hedwig follows him on the road, accompanied by Yitzhak, her new long-suffering husband. By the end, Hedwig has come into full acceptance of her singular identity.
Giving a vivid performance as Yitzhak, who is constantly bullied by Hedwig, was Kate Homan, who was totally believable as a male. Her commanding vocals in duets with Hunt and solos in “Exquisite Corpse,” and “Midnight Radio” were show highlights.
Led by music director Jacob Stensberg, a Butler University master’s degree candidate on keyboard, the Angry Inch Band, splendidly rendered the show’s pounding rock score. Band members included Matt Day as Krzysztof on guitar, Steven Byroad as Jacek on bass, and Andrew McAfee as Schlatko on drums.
Recognized as one of Indy’s most creative collaborations and proven hit-makers, Rosing and Neiditch have once again surrounded themselves with an ingenious team of artists responsible for creating “Hedwig’s” Glam-Rock reality. They include costume and headpiece designer Beck Jones; hair/makeup designer Daniel Klingler and his assistant Andrew Elliot; set designer Bridgette Dreher; lighting designer Matthew Ford Cunningham; and sound designers Ford Cunningham and Rosing. Also deserving of praise is technical director Heather Hayes who was responsible for running a show that was tight and well-paced.
Though “Hedwig,” with its themes of gender identity, self-actualization and concealment as well as its message of performance, premiered in the late 90s, it is still as relevant today as it was back then. Proving they know a thing or two about reviving cult hits, as they did with “Rocky Horror,” Rosing and Neiditch once again demonstrated that as showmanship goes, they utilize a formidable bag of technical and artistic tricks that guarantee you’ll be entertained.
Performances for “Hedwig And the Angry Inch” are sold out Friday and Saturday. For tickets to Jan. 11 through 14 shows, visit zachandzack.com.