Friday, April 4, 2014

Review: (Ottawa / Theatre) Hedwig and the Angry Inch

An Angry Inch Short of Perfection
by Sonia Blanchette 

Hedwig and The Angry Inch has received accolades and ultimate cult status. Time Magazine, Rolling Stone Magazine and The New York Times among others have heaped their praises on this gender bending rock and roll musical. It is exactly this type of show that should be the answer to growing the new age of theatre patrons, so the buzz and anticipation for this show is palpable.

Not being much of an expert or cult aficionado myself, I wasn't sure what to expect. From the moment that Hedwig, played by Tim Oberholzer, appears on stage, the crowd is sucked in by an overwhelming electricity that immediately manifests itself by tapping feet and bopping heads. Alas, unlike some, I was unable to lip-sync along as I knew not the lyrics. The reality is I have never been much of a concert goer and I now question if I missed out big time. This felt nothing like conventional theatre, it is a powerful musical manifestation! 

If every play had to have a show stopper, it would be played by and named Rebecca Noelle. She plays Yitzhak, Hedwig’s partner, and her persona at the onset is cool and detached yet her singing is particularly riveting. The Hallelujah moment for me was when she is out of character and stage right and starts belting out the chorus of Whitney Houston's version of ''I Will Always Love You''. Rarely having been overcome by a vocal rendition, I can unequivocally say that jaws dropped and goose bumps rose on the collective skin of the audience.

Stewart Matthews not only directs but also doubles as guitarist. Steven Lafond, Marc Connor and Scott Irving complete the cast. Their contribution is invaluable and their energy just oozes. You can clearly see and feel that they are not just acting, rather dedicated and invested in the story as a band and an ensemble. 

Writers Mitchell and Trask have rightly earned their cult status. Their masterful writing captures Hedwig’s identity struggles and sacrifices and recollections of having had to endure a fatherless childhood and a glacial, unaffectionate mother in a torn and divided Germany. The dichotomy between the angst and arrogance of Hedwig is a dilemma that is credible despite its contradiction. 

Some minor tweaking in the balance between voice and instruments is necessary to avoid losing some of the lyrics. Despite this minute glitch, the performances were so strong that you almost forgot about it and remained in 'drink the Kool Aid' trance. 

I was not part of the cult however I was hoping to see the new generation's Rocky Horror Picture Show represented by a younger demographic. I was not disappointed to see a wide ranging audience swept up by Hedwig. 

March 3 - 5 
Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission. 
Read also an interview with actor/producer Tim Oberholzer

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