Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Belasco Theatre, 111 W. 44th St.
Last night I had the privilege of seeing Andrew Rannells’ final performance as our favorite internationally ignored singer, Hedwig.
Here are some random thoughts about the performance(s).
Before there was Andrew, there was of course, Neil Patrick Harris. When I saw NPH in a preview performance of the show, I didn’t really know what to expect. I was somewhat familiar with the show and had already listened to many of the songs. But his performance simply blew me away. The already slender Mr. Harris reportedly lost 20 pounds to become Hedwig, which gave him a very vulnerable physical presence. His Hedwig was all angular, raw emotion, and absolutely heartbreaking. She was a tragic figure who wanted nothing more than to be loved for who she is. It was a performance that moved me so deeply that I will never forget it. Although I’m sure the multi-talented Harris will have many more successes, I really think this may have been the performance of a lifetime. NPH won the Tony, as did Lena Hall as Hedwig’s husband, Yitzhak (she is still in the show, happily). The show also won the Tony for Best Musical Revival.
Now, on to Andrew Rannells. I’m a huge AR fan (loved him as Elder Price belting “I Believe” in Book of Mormon; loved him in Hairspray and The New Normal; love him on Girls). We know Rannells is talented. We know he can sing. We know he always has a twinkle in his eye. But we wondered: could he fill NPH’s gold Hedwig platform boots?
Watching Mr. Rannells as Hedwig is a radically different experience from watching Mr. Harris in the role. The main distinction stems from their contrasting physical presences. Where NPH’s Hedwig was slight, vulnerable, and desperate for our love, AR is much larger, more aggressive, and angrier. He swears a lot. You don’t like him? Well, then fuck you! He’s big, with big muscles, and you get the feeling that if anybody gives him any grief, he would deck the poor sucker with one punch (or perhaps a well-placed kick of those gold boots). Andrew Rannells’ Hedwig has suffered, but it’s made her tougher and angrier, not sad and vulnerable. She’s pretty damn fierce (until her epiphany at the end of the show, anyway).
So, which actor is better in the role? It’s a matter of personal preference. It’s also a moot point, because if you missed both of these terrific actors in the part, it’s too late now!
But, chin up: there’s still time to get that wig out of the box. After a 3-day hiatus, the show reboots on Thursday, October 16 with Michael C. Hall (best known as TV’s “Dexter”) putting on some makeup and turning up the 8 track. (Through January 4, 2015).
What will Mr. Hall bring to the role? We’ll see. One thing is certain: Hedwig is one of musical theatre’s most demanding characters. John Cameron Mitchell, who wrote the show’s book and played Hedwig in the original off-Broadway production and in the film, says it’s the reason he gave up acting!
You can read my original review of Hedwig and the Angry Inch here.