I promise you right now that it was not because I really thought that there was any chance of seeing hardcore sex on stage at the Theatre Centre that made me want to see Ghostlight Projects production’s of Debbie Does Dallas the Musical & Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Honestly! My curiosity was piqued because I really didn’t have any idea how you could bring either of these shows to the stage successfully. Of course, Hedwig started as a stage production, but I didn’t know that at the time.
If you haven’t heard of Ghostlight Projects productions by the way, it’s because they’re brand new. Bringing to the stage versions of two cult movies, (one which features lots of sex, and the other lots of great music), is an excellent way to introduce themselves to Toronto audiences and hopefully make a name for themselves.
Debbie Does Dallas the Musical is based on the popular 1978 porno of the same name. The 1970’s are considered by some to be the ‘golden age’ of porn, as they are said to have had then much better: acting, plots and dialogue than today. Even though this may very well be true, it’s also true that once you take the nudity and sex out of a porno, even one from the golden age of porn, there’s not a whole lot left. And no, if you’re wondering, the musical does not feature any nudity or hardcore porn. It does include some reasonably clever choreography and songs though. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide the relative merits of the substitution.
When I asked Steven, my show partner, what he thought of DDD, he said that it was “ok”. The acting was ok, the singing was ok, the dialogue was ok, and so on. I have to agree with him. It was all right, and perhaps even “good” in places. This isn’t to say that it was bad by any stretch of the imagination, but there wasn’t anything that really stood out in it for me.
Jamie Robinson, as the titular (Heh, I said tit…) Debbie, had all of the mid-western innocent blonde sexuality that the role required. She also sold me on the transformation from naivety to a woman reveling in her sexuality, while delivering many laughs along the way. However, she sadly didn’t quite have the pipes to pull off most of the songs, which is unfortunate, because Debbie has to do most of the singing. As an aside, the best voice in the show belonged to Sarite Harris, who surprised the hell out of me when she sang her first line, then disappointed me when she never sang again for the rest of the night.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch, on the other hand, was damn near perfect.
Hedwig is the story of a transsexual punk singer, told in first person as though over the course of a gig in a small club. She tells of her childhood as a boy in communist East Germany listening to rock & roll over a small radio with her head in an oven. We hear of her botched penisectomy that left her with an ‘angry inch’ of flesh between her legs, and of her immigration to the United States, and her subsequent difficult life there.
Though there is more than one person on stage, Hedwig and the Angry Inch is for all intents and purposes a one-person show, relying completely on Seth Drabinski as Hedwig to carry the whole performance. Thankfully, he doesn’t disappoint; his delivery of the extremely difficult (I did say that it was a punk musical didn’t I?) songs are delivered with skill, passion, pain, rage and a great deal of sensitivity without ever descending into angst. This is Seth’s first production in Toronto, and I predict you will be seeing more of him quite soon. Playing Hedwig’s band, the Angry Inch, is the real life band the Vicious Guns, who were painfully thin, but were absolutely solid otherwise.
The shows are only on until this Saturday, so if you’re interested, don’t delay!
– Debbie Does Dallas and Hedwig and the Angry Inch are playing at the Theatre Centre every night until Saturday, November 7th.
– Debbie Does Dallas starts at 7:00 and Hedwig and the Angry Inch is at 9:00
– Tickets are available for individual shows for $22.50 to $35.00 or as a double bill for $46.50 to $60.00.
– Tickets are available online or at the door