Review: Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Hart House)

If you’re into rock musicals, then you’ll be excited to hear one of the big ones, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, is being put on by Hart House Theatre (7 Hart House Circle) until October 7. It’s an energetic, emotional romp that I recommend checking out.

This production was actually my introduction to Hedwig and the Angry Inch. It’s one of those shows that I’ve always known of but never had the chance to see. I’m thrilled that I finally got that chance. It’s a rock musical that flits between high-energy, passionate songs, and sombre, soulful storytelling.

I really enjoyed that, unlike most musicals, the band is front and centre in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. There was no pit orchestra offstage providing accompanying live music. Since the band is part of the storyline, actors delivered the music to the audience directly from the stage in character as members of the band. Each took turns playing attention-grabbing solos, captivating the audience. Iain Leslie (Krzyzhtof / Guitar), Erick Larson (Jacek / Bass), and Robert Purcell (Schlatko / Drums) were each nailing it on their respective instruments, and it was great to see a show that honours the musicians that so often fade into the background.

Giustin MacLean’s (onstage as Skszp) music direction is on-point. I’ve been to plenty of concerts, and I found it pleasantly strange seeing a punk band perform with this level of tightness and precision. It made me think that more bands should have a classically trained music director on the keys.

My guest noted that the instruments were a bit loud for him, which made it tough to pick out the lyrics at times. But for me, this added to the production’s charm. It’s meant to emulate a concert, and Jeremy Hutton and Giustin MacLean nailed that feel with the sound design and music direction.

Lauren Mayer blew me away as Yitzhak. She opened the show with the no-phones notice, demonstrating a subtle sense of humour that quickly grew on me. And when she sang for the first time, my jaw dropped. Both she and James King (Hedwig) are incredible vocalists; I’m listening to the Broadway recording of Hedwig as I’m writing this, and feel that Hart House’s production more than measures up. Their accents were on-point as well.

James King was stunning as Hedwig. He delivered a heart-wrenching performance, and his vocals were equally fantastic. His closing song ‘Midnight Radio’ left a real impression on me, and I still have a vivid image of him singing in my head.

The tech was solid too. I already mentioned the sound, but Shannon Lea Doyle really nailed the lighting, with projections used sparingly to accentuate Hedwig’s storytelling. All in all, this was a fantastic production that allowed each part of its composition to really shine. I’m glad that I got a chance to see it, and I highly recommend giving it a watch.

Details

  • Hedwig and the Angry Inch is playing at Hart House Theatre (7 Hart House Circle) until October 7, 2017.
  • Showtimes are Wed to Sat at 8PM, with a Sat matinee on October 7, at 2PM.
  • Tickets are $28 with Student and Senior discounts.
  • You can buy the tickets online or at the front door.
  • Run time is 1h 40min.
  • Audience Advisory: Contains crude language, sexually explicit and mature themes

Photo of James King as Hedwig by Scott Gorman.

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