Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Hedwig + Tony

Many years ago I watched a Sundance stunner with a group of people - I should say half watched since crammed in a dorm room with a bunch of chit-chatty folks isn't the best for fully absorbing a movie. Looking back, I had appreciated the lead performance, and loved how the musical numbers and the costumes combined to make something just as dynamic as Moulin Rouge or Rent, but made at a tenth (or less) of the budget.

I couldn't remember much else about the story - Fans of the movie know I was missing a lot.

Then sometime last year a remarkable rumor began swirling around that said film was getting the revival treatment starring Barney Stinson aka Dr. Horrible aka Doogie Howser. With such a cool development, I thought, "I really gotta watch Hedwig and The Angry Inch again".

And so I did, and it has since debuted on Broadway, and last month the revival of Hedwig And The Angry Inch nabbed nine Tony award nominations, including one for Neil Patrick Harris.

Jealousy will be reserved for those able to catch NPH as Hedwig - a remarkable character still electric  in film form 13 years later. I can't even imagine seeing those songs performed live. For awhile I was trying to scheme a way to hitch along with my G-ma when she went to New York for her high school reunion in June. I'd pop down to NYC, see Hedwig, and then she could meet me on The Great White Way to check out Les Miserables for the second time. It would be truly splendid, but highly unlikely.

For those not able to fly to NYC you could still check out the movie, if you haven't already.

Not to be outdone by Mr. "Nothing Suits Me Like A Suit", John Cameron Mitchell, the first Hedwig, is magnetic. He wrote, directed, and stars as the title role, which is all based on the show he originated in an Off-Broadway production.

Mitchell (recognizable to all those Girls fans as Hannah's would be editor) effortlessly moves around as Hedwig, like they are one and the same, belting undeniably catchy tunes. I watched the movie again last month and the spirit rousing, power anthem, "Wig In A Box" has been lodged in my brain ever since.

Hedwig performs across America in various dives (bars, diners, or wherever people gather it seems) and the audience follows along as in between the songs she tells the story of her life. We find out how someone from Germany ends up as an underground performer that even has fans showing up to performances in the USA boasting large paper yellow wigs - a tip of the hat to Hedwig's greatest accessory.  Michael Pitt is part of that equation, so the tale also has that going for it.

From being transgendered to growing up in a communist state, all of Hedwig's stories are told with earnestness. Those heavier topics cause a lot of strife for all the characters, but just like the rest of us watching the movie who find modes of coping, the entire movie is equally told with excellent humor set up as an extended kick ass rock show. Music and laughs, nothing better than that. Many of the sequences left me longing for the good old days of MTV music videos.

The Broadway production may be all the buzz right now, but the stage can not capture a great cultural film moment like Hedwig swigging a Zima on a pile of tires, then cutting to her performing on The Rosie O'Donnell Show. That is the early 2000's in a nutshell.

On the other hand, the newest production with NPH in the lead definitely secures Hedwig as an icon of the stage, that can be adaptable and relatable in any decade. 

Until next time. 

Check out the Tony Awards hosted by Mr. Hugh Jackman on June 8th.

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