Diamonds are a modern tenth-anniversary present, but that seems too unoriginal for Plan-B’s production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. What would be the right thing for a fantastically outrageous play that bills itself as, “Sex, drag, and rock ‘n roll. The anatomically incorrect, glam-rock musical”?
For starters, one of the best gifts is to have Aaron Swenson return as the title character, Hedwig Schmidt. In lesser hands, the role of a transsexual rocker hailing from East Germany would be kitsch at best. Not every actor can don the tall heels and taller wigs of someone whose sex change went awry. Swenson’s character, who once went by the name Hansel but changed it to Hedwig because of complications in the operating room, is battling with her identity. It’s a fight that Swenson portrays with flair and heart.
A critical part of Hedwig’s journey is her music, the production’s famous songs. The audience meets her on the stage of a rock concert, a set designed by Randy Rasmussen. It’s the stage of an off-off-broadway performer and it serves as a gritty confessional for Hedwig’s monologues. In between songs she tells how she came to be where she is today including a lament about ex boyfriend Tommy Gnosis: he obtains stardom by crooning songs Hedwig inspired, but rejects Hedwig because of who she is.
Hedgwig’s musings about her painful relationship with Gnosis and her life can be insightful, some are hilarious, and many hit both notes. The whole tone of the production is raunchy, electric fun. But it also packs a serious bite, the kind that breaks skin and gets to your bones. The meat of the story is how Hedwig ultimately wins the battle of self-acceptance. She embraces feathers and flamboyance in an unexpected, beautiful way.
The combination of Swenson’s performance, the outstanding music, and the direction of Jerry Rapier make this tenth anniversary a gift for the audience – Plan B’s best production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch ever.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch can be seen at the Egyptian Theatre from June 8-17. Tickets can be purchased through parkcityshow.com, planbtheatre.org or by calling 435.649.9371. Tickets cost $17-$30 (To get the $17 tickets, use the promo code ‘planb’).