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Theater Review: ‘Hedwig And The Angry Inch’ On Broadway

Sara Newman |
June 11, 2014 | 9:18 a.m. PDT

Deputy Editor

Neil Patrick Harris as Hedwig in “Hedwig And The Angry Inch.” Photo by Joan Marcus
Neil Patrick Harris as Hedwig in “Hedwig And The Angry Inch.” Photo by Joan Marcus
Neil Patrick Harris’s womanizing “How I Met Your Mother” antics get flipped on their head as he becomes the woman in the Tony-winning revival of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” Director Michael Mayer brings audiences a play so shocking that even regular theatre-goers feel the heat rising to their cheeks as they watch Hedwig (Neil Patrick Harris) strut across the stage at the Belasco Theatre.

From kissing and flirting with audience members to stripping down to his skivvies, in his Tony-winning performance, Harris is willing to go to any extreme to captivate audiences in his story of trying to find happiness (and humility) as a boy who becomes a girl who is still somewhat of a boy. Going so far as to call out audience members who decide to leave, Harris takes every moment in stride, engaging audience members at every turn with his ballsy rock star persona. 

Breaking the musical mold, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” eschews lyric duets in favor of punchy rock songs at a “concert” by the band from which the play earns its name.

Even sixteen years after the musical first premiered at the Jane Street Theatre, written by John Cameron Mitchell with music by Stephen Trask, its subject matter remains groundbreaking. Along with the theatrical assistance of glitter, skin-tight dresses and wigs the size of small children, “Hedwig” makes audiences really look at sex reassignment surgery and other issues that are oftentimes only addressed by the LGBT community.

Accompanied by his bandmates (Matt Duncan, Tim Mislock and Peter Yanowitz) and his butch wife, Yitzhak (Lena Hall), Hedwig (Neil Patrick Harris), the band’s transgender front woman, tells the audience of her transformation from a shy teenage boy growing up in East Berlin to a daring female rock star, strutting around the stage in massive heels and a denim mini dress. 

In what more closely resembles a one-woman show than a concert, Hedwig recounts her decision to undergo a sex change that goes awry, leaving him with “an angry inch,” and his many subsequent romantic woes. While the musical is certainly as outrageous as musicals come, the spectacle of glitter, skin-tight dresses and small children-sized wigs is undercut by a surprising level of emotional vulnerability. Neil Patrick Harris truly leaves it all on the stage—clothes, tears, hair and sweat—inviting her audience to see the universal pains of body dissatisfaction, heartbreak and loneliness.  

"Hedwig And The Angry Inch " is playing at the Belasco Theatre (111 West 44th Street, New York City) through August 17. Tickets are $49-&200. For more information visit HedwigBroadway.com.  

Contact Deputy Editor Sara Newman here. Follow her on Twitter here



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