Musical Review: Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Hedwig and the Angry Inch is making its way through California. Last week I drove to Hollywood with a few friends to watch the show live at the Pantages theatre.

The rock musical moves from Hollywood to San Diego at the end of November and plays at the San Diego Civic Theatre through Dec. 4.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a Tony Award-winning musical. It won best revival show in 2014 when Neil Patrick Harris put on a wig and played the titular character.

The musical tells the story of Hedwig, a German transgender musician who’s botched reassignment surgery left her with an extra “angry inch.”

Now, Darren Criss has taken over the role. The former Glee star, is one-man powerhouse, rocking the stage in his wig, skimpy dress and impressively tall heels.

The musical follows Hedwig and her band, The Angry Inch, as perform on tour and Hedwig shares her life story about escaping East Berlin and her failed dreams of rock stardom. Hedwig is obsessed with being the center of attention. The character flaw is hilariously executed as Darren Criss, pushes his bandmates out of the spotlight and then bats his high lashes and smiles flirtatiously at the audience.

While the story may seem out there, at its core it explores the truths of love and

Like the story itself, the music is unexpected. There’s no crooning lullabies, operatic ballads or oboe solos playing in the background. Hedwig sings rock & roll. Of course, there’s a theatrical element to the music, but Hedwig jumps around the stage screaming out songs with a background band of electric guitars and drums.

The premise is one of the strangest to grace the stage. Hedwig constantly breaks the fourth wall during the show to address the audience directly. At one point, he even got off the stage and started kissing an audience member in the front row.

Instead of watching the story unfold on stage, Hedwig tells the story to the audience. There were a few other characters, but Hedwig is essentially a one man –or woman– show. Criss is a brilliant performer. He switches voices and mannerisms each time he introduces a new character into the story. His nonstop dialogue and jokes kept the audience engaged and entertained. He gives a phenomenal performance.

If you want to see Criss on stage, you’ll have to make your way to Hollywood. Once the show moves to San Diego, there will be a new lead taking over.

It’s not my favorite show I’ve ever seen and I wish there’d been more story shown and less of Hedwig just talking to the audience, but who am I to criticize a Tony award winning musical? My Hollywood road trip was worth all the sitting in traffic and overpriced parking. The comedy, music and dynamic cast performance make Hedwig and the Angry Inch well worth the ticket.

Even if you can’t make it out to the show, check out the original cast recording on Spotify. Origin of Love is especially good. I guarantee it’s a musical unlike any you’ve heard before.

Photo Credit: HedwigBroadway.com

Sarah Trenholme

Majoring in Journalism with an emphasis in PR and minoring in Television, Film, and New Media. I spend my non-school time contemplating what superhero name I'd choose if/when I ever get superpowers. Tune in Thursdays at 9am from my show.