Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a glam rock musical created by Stephen Trask and John Cameron Mitchell that has won several awards. The musical began Off-Broadway, expanded to the West End and Broadway, and has had dozens of tours around the world with over 17 professional productions. It has been adapted into film and there are at least ten official audio recordings of the stage performances.
The story is a presented in a disjointed manner, but follows the titular character Hedwig, who was born in East Berlin as Hansel Schmidt. As a young gay man, life is very difficult for him, and Hansel wishes to escape and finds potential salvation when a US soldier offers to marry him and take him back to America. However, Hansel must get a sex change operation to be declared a woman in order to marry, so he assumes his mother's name Hedwig and undergoes reassignment surgery only to see it botched. Lacking a penis, Hedwig is declared a she, and successfully makes it to America, only to see the Berlin wall fall, and her husband leave her for someone else. Hedwig returns to her old love of music and attracts a military brat named Tommy, and the two form a band that becomes very popular. However, upon learning about Hedwig's disfigured genitalia, Tommy leaves Hedwig and takes sole credit for their music. The musical is presented with Hedwig following Tommy around trying to get people to realize that she is the real talent behind Tommy's songs.
I was introduced to Hedwig and the Angry Inch by my friend Sarah, a fellow musical lover who showed me the film. I liked it enough that I went on to buy it and its soundtrack and started showing them both to various other friends. Later, I finally saw the performance live with my friend Wallee, so I finally got to see the notable differences between the film and stage performance (and again a few years later).
When I first experienced Hedwig, I was a bit overwhelmed at the content, since transgenderism was still a foreign concept to me, and I still had tumultuous feelings about it due to my Evangelical upbringing. However, over the years, as I've met more LGB and especially T people, I've become more comfortable and understanding of the story.
- The musical has fantastic music. Most of the songs are well made with both singable lyrics, great chords, and introspective messages.
- Hedwig is a great character. In addition to being extremely interesting and sad, she exhibits growth and maturity through the show, recognizes how she's bullying her husband the same way she was bullied and rectifies it, and comes to terms with her sexuality.
- There is a lot of very funny dialogue and jokes. And, unlike most stage productions, the humor is actually funny.
- For each of the shows I've seen, the art direction has been very impressive. The set is attractive, the animation is interesting, and everything really flows together.
- I think the story is very important regarding matters of gender and immigration.
- Having Hedwig and Tommy played by the same character really helps explain the dual nature of the character.
- You have to imagine an awful lot of the story because so much happens off-stage with Hedwig simply describing the interactions she had with her father, mother, husband, and boyfriend. In this respect, I prefer the film which adds a lot more life to these moments.