Can the edgy “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” work as a glitzy Broadway musical? It can and it does, writes reviewer Dusty Somers, as the touring production takes the stage at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre.
In many ways, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is the quintessential off-Broadway musical, honed by John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask in the tight quarters of rock clubs and developed at a time when “edgy” hadn’t quite become a mainstream marketing tactic.
Could it ever hope to work as a big, glitzy Broadway show?
Revived in 2014 on Broadway, initially with Neil Patrick Harris in the title role, “Hedwig” comes to Seattle on its first national tour of that staging, directed by Michael Mayer. The lights are arena-rock-show ready, the band’s sound mix is perfectly tight and there’s an entire rusted-out car chassis in the middle of the stage, but Mayer never loses sight of the show’s sardonic, confessional soul.
‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’
by John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask. Through Sunday, Dec. 18, Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine St., Seattle; $35-$100 (800-745-3000 or stgpresents.org).
“Hedwig” has become a regional theater mainstay — a 2013 Seattle production starred Jerick Hoffer, aka Jinkx Monsoon — but this staging should have something new to offer even the most seasoned fans.
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Euan Morton stars as Hedwig, the gender queer German singer who blossomed from a “slip of a girly boy” in a strict East Berlin home to an “internationally ignored” performer, with a botched sex-change operation along the way. Now, she’s touring the U.S. with her band, the Angry Inch, and browbeaten husband Yitzhak (Hannah Corneau) in tow.
Mitchell has updated the show’s book to bring it into the present day, which messes with the chronology but fits perfectly with Hedwig’s sense of narrative flexibility.
Also new: a justification for Hedwig’s ability to book a big theater like the Paramount — the abruptly shuttered “Hurt Locker: The Musical,” its set barely used and still in place.
In Hedwig’s world of voracious pastiche, this annexed pop-culture parody fits right in, and it provides an early opportunity to enjoy Corneau’s honeyed voice as Yitzhak sings a few bars of its hilariously overwrought theme, “When Love Explodes.”
It’s just a few bars because Hedwig doesn’t allow the spotlight to stray far from her for long, and Morton gleefully captures the character’s array of insecurities while adding just a spark of spontaneity to her capacity for cruelty. (A dig at previous Hedwig portrayer Darren Criss doesn’t hold back.)
While Hedwig’s accomplished four-piece band accompanies her on a tour through her fractured upbringing, onetime lover and collaborator Tommy Gnosis plays nearby (“just a few blocks away” at CenturyLink Field, Hedwig says), the sound from his massive show blasting in when the stage door is opened.
Gnosis’ voice is, of course, provided by Morton, whose exceptionally versatile pipes get a new showcase with every song: a guttural growl in the garage rock of “Angry Inch,” a soaring balladeer’s lament in “Wicked Little Town,” a post-punk sneer in the churning “Exquisite Corpse.” An already-great score is elevated by Morton’s vocal chops.
Corneau, whose voice tantalizes in little snippets throughout the show, makes the most of her transformative finale, “Midnight Radio,” an electric burst of talent that gives a little extra kick to the high “Hedwig” sends you out on.