Preview: Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Breathe.Feel.Love)

Seth Drabinsky, sitting over a coffee at the 519’s Fabarnak, doesn’t strike an especially impressive figure. He seems like any other guy, cheerful and friendly but not really fabulous in any regard – until the subject of Hedwig comes up. After dozens upon dozens of performances over four separate runs as the tragic trans tagalong to Tommy Gnosis’s star, I half suspect Drabinsky of having a crush on Hedwig.

Hedwig and The Angry Inch, a rock musical by John Cameron Mitchell (of Shortbus fame) with music by Stephen Trask, follows the difficult tale of Hedwig, who was born Hansel in East Germany before the Wall came down. In love with a US Army officer and desperate to escape East Germany, Hansel changes his name to Hedwig (his mother’s name), and has “an operation” – presumably a rudimentary sex change surgery, which does not produce a constructed vagina as expected but rather the aforementioned “angry inch”. She is nevertheless allowed to leave for the US in the company of her soldier, but in a year’s time he leaves and she’s left to fend for herself. Hard rock tragicomedy awaits.

Following a successful tour across Ontario and Manitoba in 2010, Breathe.Feel.Love’s production of Hedwig performed to sold-out audiences at the 2011 Winnipeg Fringe Festival in addition to a very well-received one-night engagement at Montreal’s Le National and a unique outdoor performance on the main stage of Ottawa’s Capital Pride Festival.

Opening January 9th downstairs at the Drake, a satisfyingly indie music venue for live performances of Hedwig, Drabinsky will notch performances 56 to 73 rolling up his stockings and playing bombshell blonde from East Berlin. When asked “Why Hedwig?” Drabinsky tells a familiar tale of a somewhat isolated kid, trying to come out and be proud, seeing the images on the cover of a Hedwig cast album CD and being captivated. Ever since, he’s felt connected to Hedwig as an outsider, someone hard at work attempting to be stand out and blend in.

“She’s not a tragic figure,” he says, reflectively, “even though it’s kind of a sad story. But it doesn’t seem that way in the middle of it, when I’m performing as her. She’s still working. She’s still workin’ it, trying to change things. I love that about her.”


– Hedwig and The Angry Inch plays at The Drake Underground, 1150 Queen Street West.

– Performances are Wednesday through Saturday nights, 9-27 January at 7:30pm with Saturday matinees at 3pm.

– Tickets are $35 ($25 for students and arts workers).

– Buy tickets online, or by phone at 1-800-838-3006. Preshow and experience packages can be had at