I could tell as soon as I walked into The Eccles Theater on Tuesday night that the crowd there to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch was not the typical musical theater crowd in Utah. First of all, the beer line wrapped around the grand lobby, then there were the over-the-top drag queens with bedazzled and glittered beards, huge beehive wigs and elegant and sparkly ballgowns who were set up for photo-ops with ticket holders. The crowd skewed young, hip and gayer than usual. And, within it were the ranks of some of Utah’s most outspoken LGBT advocates.
This is not your daddy’s Rogers and Hammerstein musical.
And so, there in the literal shadow of the LDS Temple, began a play about the gender-queer Hedwig, played by the outstanding Euan Morton. Flanked by a live band and framed by the chassis of a car, Hedwig is mostly a one (wo)man show, as the title character tells her life story in a thick german accent laced with double entendres, sexual come-ons and oral sex jokes. Morton worked the crowd in a glittery denim skirt and gold high heeled boots as he leaped and rolled and climbed and danced all night in—reminding this reviewer of the famous line about Ginger Rogers doing everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in heels. As an avowed heel wearer myself, I was impressed by both Morton’s grace and his killer gams.
While the band is onstage to serve as wordless comedic relief, the character of Yitzhak, Ludwig’s husband is mostly there as wordless depth. Hedwig, you see, isn’t kind to her band or to her husband. Yitzhak was a drag queen when he met her, and she told him the same Luther, the man who encouraged her to get (an unsuccessful) gender reassignment surgery told her, “To walk away, you’ve got to leave something behind.” In Hedwig’s case, it was her penis. In Yitzhak’s case, it was his wigs.
In the beginning it seems Hedwig seems singularly motivated by the one who got away, pop star Tommy Gnosis, whom she’s known (and loved) for years and recently had an ill-fated reunion with.
But as the play goes on, the depth that Morton brings to the character of Hedwig, combined with the heart that Hannah Corneau brings to Yitzhak—with only a few lines but a lot of expression—it becomes evident that despite the “angry inch” both Hedwig the character and Hedwig the play have an awful lot of heart.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch plays at The Eccles Theater through 12/23. Tickets are still available here.