Gilda Wabbit in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Photo: Nik Vechery
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Book by John Cameron Mitchell
Music and lyrics by Stephen Trask
Directed by Tony Lewis
A review by Kate Barry
Entire contents are copyright © 2022 by Kate Barry. All rights reserved.
“I was born on the other side, of a town ripped in two. I made it over the great divide. Now I’m coming for you.” With lyrics like that from the opening number, Hedwig and the Angry Inch proves it is a lot of things wrapped up in one show. What originated from the early ’90s drag scene by John Cameron Mitchell, this tale of survival, identity, and love has now grown into one of the most gripping and distinct pieces of musical theater, and the reprised production at Play Theater with Drag Daddy Productions is a celebration of self-acceptance and healing.
Artistic Director Tony Lewis has crafted an excellent production of the rock musical. Hedwig’s complex narrative and trauma are never lost as they build a life outside of Cold War Berlin. Through all the strife, a heroic journey to self-love and acceptance is made. Since its 2014 Broadway run, the show has found an audience in Louisville at Actors Theater and Pandora Productions. Steering clear of a traditional theater space, Drag Daddy’s show feels comfortable at Play Dance Bar in Butchertown. After you grab a cocktail from the full bar and pick out a folding chair seat, you’ll notice the tiny stage with sparkling accents, rainbows, an arrangement of wigs, and disco balls hanging from the ceiling.
Accompanied by Yitzhak (played by the ever talented Myranda Thomas) and a backing band potentially held against their will, Hedwig is introduced with a glam rock flourish in “Tear Me Down.” Grinding and thrusting without apology, Gilda Wabbit hooks you in and guides you through Hedwig’s search for wholeness. Gilda fills the room with delirious vocals in “Origin of Love”, accompanied by simple and effective animation. Using her breadth of experience in drag, Gilda Wabbit is able to amp up the camp and vigor for “Wig in a Box” and “Sugar Daddy.” And yet the monologues describing harsh childhood memories in Berlin, botched surgeries, and abandonment are handled with genuine emotion and care as well. Using the intimacy of the performance space to their advantage, Gilda shows her capabilities for tragedy one minute then telling a self-deprecating joke the next. Within the show’s most heightened musical numbers, Gilda Wabbit provides heartbreaking punk rock in “Exquisite Corpse” that leads directly into “Midnight Radio,” an anthem for freaks everywhere.
As mentioned before, Myranda Thomas appears as the stoic Yitzhak, Hedwig’s backup singer and lover on their own journey through self-acceptance. Through Hedwig’s toxic relationship, we see the trauma and urge for change. Thomas brings an unexpected rawness to “Long Grift” as she releases an extraordinary emphasis on the song. The character of Tommy Gnosis, typically played by the same actor who plays Hedwig is performed by a Yehudah Husband in this production, the alpha male American soldier who convinces Hedwig to run away with him. Husband’s Tommy Gnosis is naïve, awkward, and vulnerable in his budding love for Hedwig. The choice to include an additional performer takes away the meta one-person show vibe of the original play and moves it closer to a more standard theater production.
The director’s notes for Hedwig and the Angry Inch state that “only when the trauma is confronted does the healing begin.” Hedwig faces a journey from Germany to America while exploring her identity as a man or woman. We see the pain, loss, and most importantly, the healing through music.
Featuring Gilda Wabbit, Myranda Thomas, Yehuda Husband
The Band: Zack Kennedy, Craig Wagner, Dave Neill, John Austin Clark
Hedwig and The Angry Inch
July 14-17 @ 7:30 PM
Drag Daddy Productions
Play Dance Club
1101 E. Washington Street
Louisville, KY 40206
Kate Barry earned her Bachelors in English with a Theater minor from Bellarmine University in 2008. She has worked with many different companies around town including Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions and you have probably purchased tickets from her at that little performing arts center on Main Street as well. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. She has written for LEO Weekly and TheatreLouisville.com as well. Thanks for reading!