Review: Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Maurice Galpern & The Lower Ossington Theatre)

The Lower Ossington Theatre presents the cult classic musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch in Toronto

What is there to say about Hedwig and the Angry Inch other than go see it? The Lower Ossington Theatre is currently mounting this great night of fun, and if you get a chance, if you can navigate Toronto traffic hassles, I suggest you check it out.

The play is part monologue, part rock concert and all fun. The subject matter, vibe and time in history are all reminiscent of a time when the east and west were divided. Think Berlin Wall and think early 70’s David Bowie and you have an idea of what Hedwig is all about.

I had come to think that Hedwig and The Angry Inch was part of our collective pop-consciousness, like The Rocky Horror Show, but then I told some people I work with, bragged really, that I was going to the show and I got nothing but blank stares: the usual, really.

When you go see Hedwig, the blank stares, the clothes you are wearing, all that is washed away. Entering the theatre is like stepping through a door into another time. It’s a cliché, but walking through the doors and entering The Lower Ossington Theatre means all bets are off. You know that crappy TTC ride you had on the way down? It’s been completely wiped off the chalkboard. You are now amongst friends, there’s a rock and roll band onstage and adult beverages available.

The story of Hedwig and The Angry Inch is told in burlesque style. Hedwig (Nathaniel Bacon) delivers her life story between songs while fronting a classic-style rock and roll band. The monologue is delivered with tongue-in-cheek humour, complete with rim shots. Bacon can definitely sing and he has the huge amount of charisma necessary to pull off a successful portrayal of Hedwig.

The play is about an East German boy named Hansel who is seduced by a US Marine. The marine eventually wants to marry Hansel and bring her/him back to The States. The annoying little thing in Hansel’s undergarments makes the emigration and marriage difficult. Hansel agrees to have his penis surgically removed.

The operation is botched, and Hansel becomes, Hedwig. She’s a cross of both genders, admired by most but belonging to none. Hedwig straddles that big, bad Berlin Wall and moves to America. You go, girl! It doesn’t look like much, but when Hedwig sings these lines it makes more sense.

Six inches forward and five inches back
I got an angry inch

In more gender-bending fun, Kit Boulter plays one of Hedwig’s love interests, Yitzach. Yitzach is visibly uncomfortable being a second banana, along for the Hedwig ride. My friend Mick really liked Boulter’s performance while I thought it was one dimensional. I thought her male mannerisms were overblown, in a caricature sort of way. However, both Mick and I agreed that Boulter is a great singer.

The band, The Angry Inch, is really good. All good rock shows need a light show, and the one at this mounting of Hedwig is fantastic. Hats go off to lighting designer Nick Andison.

Hedwig and The Angry Inch has become a cult classic for all the right reasons. The music is great, it’s a fun, engaging show, and it teases social taboos in just the right way. It the type of show you could see every couple of weekends. If you know Hedwig already, you’ll know what I mean and want to see her again.

If you’ve never seen the play, this production is well worth checking out, and bound to make you a fan. My friend Mick called it “the best show ever!” I highly recommend it!