Hedwig and the Angry Itch

“Hedwig and the Angry Itch”
a kate west review
by John Cameron Mitchell, music & lyrics by Stephen Trask
directed by Derek Charles Livingston
at the Celebration Theatre
7051B Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, (323) 957-1884, Tix $25
Thursdays – Saturdays; April 17 – May 23, 2004

Diehard fans of the newly-touted cult classic film “Hedwig and the Angry Itch,” (or the original Broadway production) may need to be coaxed to see the Celebration Theatre’s recent production of the same name; however, they also may very well be surprised. Wade McCollum plays an intense Hedwig Schmidt, an East German transsexual suffering from a botched sex change operation. He may not match creator John Cameron Mitchell’s take on the character but still makes the part very much his own.

Hedwig regales the audience with tales of her East German childhood, her stoic mother, her first love and her escape into the fabulously wild world of rock and roll. McCollum’s light-hearted manner delights the audience, lulling us into joyous entertainment only to surprise us with the occasional emotional outburst, which he handles well. Haunted by her all-consuming passion to find her twin soul mate, Hedwig falls for up-and-coming rock star Tommy Gnosis who cannot deal with Hedwig’s shortcomings, so to speak (you’ll understand when you see the play) and naturally ends up breaking her heart.

Peppered with topical references (including a knock at George W.), Hedwig’s two hour rant (with no intermission) is supported by a sympathetic and talented crew of singers, dancers and musicians. Standouts include Trystan Angel Reese as former drag queen and new husband Yitzhak, William Belli as the surly ex-lover Tommy Gnosis and Lisa Robert as one of the versatile Angry Itch singers and Hedwig’s mother.

By the end of the production, the audience is on their feet cheering, pulling for Hedwig while we watch her many twists and turns on her emotional roller coaster. The story is amusing, sad, scandalous, entertaining, passionate and joyful. Hedwig is tragic, noble, lonely, sad, strong, funny and triumphant. The climax is a frenzy of dance, complete with strobe lights, exhausting the performers and the participatory spectators. While a more definitive ending would have brought enhanced closure, Hedwig’s final monologue still leaves us sympathetic and wanting more. And the music is fabulous. A wonderful endeavor by the Celebration Theatre.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch (New Line Platinum Series)

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