Karen Miller and I saw *Hedwig and the Angry Inch* off Broadway on one of my last visits to New York, in the late 90s. We loved it, and I loved the movie (it made my Top Five that year) - - I heard it was being done on Broadway with Neil Patrick Harris, and Richard and I made the rare decision to pay full price for a Broadway show. We saw it on 5/9.
The show is about an East German transsexual named Hedwig, who started life as a boy named Hansel in East Berlin and had an affair with an American soldier in the 70s - - the soldier offered to marry him and take him to America, but said that he had to leave something behind. He had a botched sexual reassignment surgery - - I won’t get too graphic, but I’ll quote the chorus of one of the best songs in the show:
Six inches forward
Five inches back
I’ve got an angry inch
On a side note, I doubt that Rodgers and Hammerstein ever imagined the words “botched sexual reassignment surgery” would one day be connected to a hit Broadway musical.
The soldier abandons Hedwig - - in one of the new bits of dialogue, written for the Broadway production, Hedwig says, “He left me for a boy he met on ChristianMingle.com. Or whatever we called it back then. [pause] Church.” Hedwig takes up with a teenage boy, starts writing songs with him, and he becomes a rock star, singing the songs that they wrote together and giving her no credit. She’s formed a band and is doing a shadow tour, playing crappy venues near the stadiums where Tommy is playing, telling her story.
The show has the energy of a rock concert, but the dramatic arc of a musical. It rocks hard, but is also sweet and funny, and in the end, profoundly moving. Hedwig is searching for acceptance and recognition, and that’s something we can all relate to, nicht?
Neil Patrick Harris was supreme as Hedwig. He had the pipes and the grandeur and the flinty heartbreak. He totally commanded the stage, it was a thrill. This show made me think Bette Midler in *I’ll Eat You Last*, which Richard and I saw this past fall. I wish I had written a review of it, it was one of the best things I’ve ever seen on Broadway. It was a one-woman play about Hollywood superagent Sue Mengers, and it was a lovefest on three levels: the playwright was in love with the character, Bette was in love with the show and performing the show, and the audience was in love with Bette. We had the same three-way lovefest with Hedwig. There’s nothing like it.