Friday, August 23, 2019

Atomic Vaudeville’s production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch about more than just hair

June 13, 2019 by Katy Weicker, staff writer

Atomic Vaudeville is back at it with their annual production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The show is a single-set one-act production, which runs at a civilized hour and a half—although I’m sure it feels longer to the actors who never leave the stage! With minimal props (save a dozen or so wigs), the show, on the surface, seems simple enough; however, from the moment Griffin Leonard Lea appears in a platinum blonde wig and sequined romper, it’s clear this is going to be anything but simple. 

Lea is captivating as Hedwig Robinson, a transgender East German singer performing at a dive bar while her (much more successful) former partner plays at a nearby venue. Lea has sass and command as he takes the stage by storm in the beginning moments of the show. He interacts flawlessly with the audience as Hedwig, regaling us with tales of her childhood as a young boy in East Berlin. 

Atomic Vaudeville get Hedwig and the Angry Inch right in their new production (photo by Mackenzie Lemire).

With the help of her husband Yitzhak (played by Jana Morrison), Hedwig takes us through her journey to America and her transition from Hansel to Hedwig.

While the jokes come fast and hard in the beginning, Lea’s vulnerability and subtlety begin to shine through as the story progresses; it’s a privilege watching him come unhinged onstage with a raw realness that allows the audience to see past the glitter and into the soul of the protagonist. 

Morrison should also be commended for her gender-bending role as Yitzhak. Her powerhouse vocals are a force to be reckoned with, and she is the perfect calm-in-the-eye-of-the-storm balance to Lea’s performance, while still managing to give the occasional emotional sucker-punch to the audience.

Backing the two up is a solid band of four musicians who have the ability to seamlessly blend into the background while still interacting with the main actors. 

Unfortunately, because the actors use handheld mics, the sound was a little off on the night I went, making it hard to understand the lyrics to some of the songs. Other than that, this is a technically sound (albeit simple) staging of the show. 

All in all, this is a heartbreaking, humorous, and delightful performance, and Atomic Vaudeville should be commended for their fearlessness and the effervescent joy they brought to the stage. 

Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Various times and prices
Until Saturday, June 15, Belfry Theatre
Thursday June 27, Friday, June 28, Sunday, June 30, Capital Ballroom
atomicvaudeville.com

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