One does not attend a major rock concert without proper preparation. We began telling our friends and relatives weeks in advance that we would be seeing Hedwig and the Angry Inch in Olympia. Most people just stared at us, but some knew what we were talking about and would smile and raise their eyebrows. Our oldest granddaughter would have probably joined us if we had invited her.
On Saturday, just as we were almost out the door, the mail arrived. I opened a package and howled. Inside was the perfect T-shirt for a concert and a CD of musical gems. Both were from Zev Brooks, the co-writer and producer of “The Yankles.” We had truly enjoyed the film about an orthodox Jewish yeshiva baseball team. The CD contained the background music of the film including the final number, “Sweeter Than Kosher Wine.” We always liked wine but not necessarily the very sweet varieties. In our wayyyyy earlier days, we drank the cheap Annie Green Springs variety. I was tauntingly called Mr. Tyrolia by my closest friends but it certainly was better than Mogen David.
Most of the music on the CD is Klezmer: “an instrumental musical tradition of the Ashkenazi Jews of Central and Eastern Europe. The essential elements of the tradition include dance tunes, ritual melodies, and virtuosic improvisations played for listening; these would have been played at weddings and other social functions. The musical genre incorporated elements of many other musical genres including Ottoman (especially Greek and Romanian) music, Baroque music, German and Slavic folk dances, and religious Jewish music. As the music arrived in the United States, it lost some of its traditional ritual elements and adopted elements of American big band and popular music.” (Wikipedia)
The Klezmer music soothed our souls as we fought traffic on I-5 all the way from Tacoma. With such a beautiful day, we should have allowed a two-hour window to get there. By the time we took our seats at the Harlequin Theatre, the opening band Sugar and the Spitfires were already several songs into their performance; That was a shame. We easily switched gears from Klezmer and enjoyed Sugar’s singing and the band, some of which also backed Hedwig. Peg enjoyed the music and especially enjoyed “Sugar’s” very expressive dance moves. We could have done without the now ironic period piece, Harper Valley PTA, but we loved her other selections like Come Together by The Beatles and You Don’t Mess Around With Jim, written by Jim Croce.
“He says, I know you, you know me
One thing I can tell you is you got to be free.
Each week will feature a different opening act. If we lived in Olympia, we would definitely be returning each week. Perhaps the Angry Inch will grow on you as well.
Twenty-one years ago, the film of Hedwig and the Angry Inch came out: “A gender-queer punk-rock singer from East Berlin tours the U.S. with her band as she tells her life story and follows the former lover/band-mate who stole her songs.”
In Harlequin’s program there are several Spoiler Alerts as well as Essential Terms relating to gender identity and sexual orientation. Good bios on the Angry Inch band. I tend to only surface read programs and let the acting carry me through the production and then study the programs. It’s like getting two different views for one price.
There are only two members in the cast, besides the excellent band. Mandy Rose Nicholes (they/them) plays Hedwig’s wife and dogsbody Yitzhak. Yitzhak explains to the audience how to cheer on Hedwig. Yitzhak sets up a projection machine for cell photos during Hedwig’s rants and singing. Yitzhak worships Hedwig. Mandy Rose plays the part so well. You feel the effort and the care she gives to the star.
Adam Rennie (he/they) plays Hedwig. Adam is a product of Australia, but now calls NYC home. Hedwig’s beautiful voice covers a wide range. The multiple costume changes, all done on stage, are like layers of her personality . . . and we see them peeled back and reduced to the core. From taunting the audience to taunting Yitzhak, and even the audience. Yitzhak Hedwig tells more than about her trauma she endured to get out of East Berlin before the Wall fell…she thinks she may have wanted to. Hedwig attacks and retreats often in the same breath intake – very well done and worth every second. Hedwig uses the thrust stairs into as well as the runway to attack the audience as he runs through it gathering courage and acceptance at the same time. The only thing that could have improved the production was a hundred more people in the audience.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch was directed by Aaron Lamb. We last saw him on-stage in that wonderful December 2021 production of A Christmas Carol, which he also directed. He has a nice touch. We also enjoyed his production of The Highest Tide. So far in our book, he’s three for three.
Jeanie Beirne (she/her) is the Resident Scenic Designer. Hedwig and the Angry Inch includes a stage littered with boxes, cords, and a dozen more things that roadies have that must be stepped on, over, or around. The stage is just like our lives except for the stairs and ladder which nearly reaches to the roof and the sky. Don’t we all have aspirations like that. Very nice work. The set worked for both the opening act as well as the main attraction.
The show runs 140 minutes – The Angry Inch, with Hedwig Schmidt.
AGE RECOMMENDATION – 12 and older with guidance. Some seniors may need guidance as well.
CONTENT ADVISORY – Difficult themes, frank conversations and language.
Prices – General $42 • Senior/Military $38 • Student/Youth $25
For more information contact harlequinproductions.org/