Ever hear of a rock musical that actually rocked? John Cameron Mitchell's glorious adaptation of his acclaimed Off-Broadway show might be a first: This bittersweet chronicle of the few ups and many downs of a transsexual, would-be rock and roll superstar not only works brilliantly as a musical, but also features some of the best rock songs ever written for...read more
Ever hear of a rock musical that actually rocked? John Cameron Mitchell's glorious adaptation of his acclaimed Off-Broadway show might be a first: This bittersweet chronicle of the few ups and many downs of a transsexual, would-be rock and roll superstar not only works brilliantly as a musical, but also features some of the best rock songs ever written for the theatrical stage. The tunes, by the very talented Stephen Trask, run the gamut from stomping glam-rock and spiky punk to sing-along pop (just follow the bouncing wig!) and soulful ballads, without ever striking a false note. Mitchell, who also wrote the script, reprises his star turn as Hedwig, an East German-born glam rocker who, along with her band, the Angry Inch, has been reduced to playing the Bilgewater's chain of family restaurants, scaring hungry diners whose only interest is the salad bar. Hitting the stage like some ungodly cross between Farrah Fawcett and Wendy O. Williams, in makeup of the kind usually found on the fender of '65 Mustang, Hedwig peppers her Bowie-inspired psycho-circus with tart one-liners and the heartbreaking story of her life. Born a boy — Hansel — to a German mother and American military father, Hedwig was raised on the rock masters — Lou, Iggy, David and Toni (Tennille, of course). Cross-dressing Hansel wanted nothing more than to go west, and was eventually swept off his teenaged feet by an American GI (Maurice Dean Wint). Hansel says "yes" to a marriage proposal, but learns that he's first going to have to undergo a complete physical exam. So he changes his name to Hedwig and bravely undergoes gender reassignment surgery; when the operation is horribly botched, Hedwig is left with little more than an angry inch where half a foot of manhood used to be. After a few years of marriage American style, Hedwig finds herself alone in a Kansas trailer park, abandoned and broke. Doing the only thing a poor girl can do, Hedwig puts down the bottle and forms a rock and roll band. Aided by bits of Emily Hubley's charming animation, Mitchell opens up the play for the screen fabulously, transforming what were essentially stage monologues into candy-colored, fairy-tale fragments that pack a unexpected emotional punch. Catch it on a Saturday night, and make sure the volume is turned all the way up.
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