Hedwig and the Angry Inch

 

Transgendered rocker is one tough cookie in ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch.’

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By Christine Dolen

Hedwig Schmidt, a “slip of a girly-boy” turned transgendered rocker, has slipped back into South Florida for another round of rock-driven storytelling — and what a wild story Hedwig has to tell.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch, the award-winning Off-Broadway musical by John Cameron Mitchell and Steven Trask, had a run on Miami Beach eight years ago, two years after it was made into a movie starring Mitchell. Now, courtesy of a new production by Infinite Abyss, Hedwig and her band are rocking out once more, this time in the intimate Empire Stage space in Fort Lauderdale. And there’s nothing quite like watching a “gal” in spandex and a winged Farrah Fawcett wig strut her stuff just inches from your seat.

If you don’t happen to be a “Hedhead,” or hardcore Hedwig fan, here’s the not-so-glam rocker’s story in brief.

Hedwig Schmidt (Joe Harter), born in Communist-controlled East Berlin as a boy named Hansel, falls in love with a soldier who offers marriage and a new life in the United States. To get hitched legally, Hansel has a sex change, but the brand-new Hedwig isn’t quite the woman Hansel imagined becoming, no thanks to the inept surgeon.

Nor does life in Hedwig’s new home have a fairy-tale ending. She gets dumped by hubby, exploited by more than one man and artistically ripped off by her soul mate, who becomes a huge rock star on the strength of Hedwig’s songs. Yet she perseveres. Hedwig may be androgynous (and even a wee bit scary in her heavy makeup and wild blonde wig), but she’s one tough cookie.

Directed by Jeffrey D. Holmes, the production features Harter as both Hedwig and the rocker’s beloved, Tommy Gnosis; Blaze Powers as bass guitarist Yitzhak; Dominick Daniel and Jhovany Castillo on percussion; Roger Blankenship on keyboards, and Jonathan Bellino on guitar. The able musicians do right by Trask’s songs, including The Origin of Love (derived from Plato’s Symposium), Wig in a Box, Wicked Little Town and Midnight Radio.

Harter starts out slowly vocally and in conjuring a memorable Hedwig but gains power on both fronts as the 90-minute show goes on. In this gender-bending musical, Yitzhak is played by a girl done up as a guy, with drawn-on beard and mustache plus a man-of-few-words attitude. The slender Powers nails her assignment, contributing vocals that blend well with Harter’s. And when she walks out in the waning moments of the show done up in a slinky hot-pink dress, she shows the fictional Hedwig what glam rock is all about.

In Hedwig and the Angry Inch, the unusual but unexpectedly endearing title character and her band are in-your-face close and in-your-ears loud. But Infinite Abyss has thought of everything: A pair of noise-muting earplugs comes with every ticket.

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