Hedwig has pepped up a bit since my last encounter with the East German transsexual. The title character of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" has always been a study in dichotomy: both male and female, both happy and sad.
In the In the Wings production of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," on stage at downtown Orlando's The Abbey, director Bruce Ryan Costella emphasizes Hedwig's party-gal persona for much of the evening.
That has the result of creating a surprisingly feel-good musical for the first half of "Hedwig," but also makes for a jarring transition to angst-ridden final stretch of the show.
"Hedwig and the Angry Inch," written by John Cameron Mitchell, is essentially a one-person show (though in this case Janine Klein as Hedwig's husband Yitzhak makes a strong impression). Hedwig, performing a rock concert, tells his tragedy-filled story of his lonely childhood in East Berlin as "girly boy" Hansel, to his botched sex-change operation, marriage to an American G.I., subsequent divorce, descent into poverty and connection to Tommy — an unseen love who went on to become a successful rock-and-roller using Hedwig's songs.
The rock songs — catchily and winningly performed by star Joshua Eads-Brown and a tight four-piece ensemble — augment the story.
Eads-Brown, who made a stellar Mary Sunshine in Theatre Downtown's 2011 performance of "Chicago," is well-known around town as his alter ego Ginger Minj. Maybe it's partly his years of experience in drag that give Hedwig that extra bounce in her step; Eads-Brown certainly knows how to make an entrance. With a pouffed-out Carol Channing-like wig, six-inch glittery silver heels, and a star-spangled gown, his Hedwig takes command of the audience right from the get-go.
The quick-thinking ad-libs — name-dropping Buddy Dyer, off-the-cuff quips to audience members — only add to Hedwig's charm.
As Hedwig's current (and long-suffering) spouse Yitzhak, Janine Klein fully embraces her masculine side. With all due respect to Ms. Klein, who generally makes a gloriously female diva, she makes one heckuva convincing man. It's the way she sets her jaw, the slouch in her posture, the tatty goatee.
Her singing voice is strong as ever, too, belting the harmonies around Eads-Brown, and getting the spotlight for her own powerful number.
Musically, the show sounds great — the rockin' vibe never overpowering the lyrics. Musical director Spencer Crosswell, also a veteran of Theatre Downtown shows, strikes just the right balance.
Did I miss some of the shadings of sadness? Yes. But it's still a thrill to watch Hedwig rule her crowd and find her heart.
'Hedwig and the Angry Inch'
'Hedwig and the Angry Inch'
•What: In the Wings production of the John Cameron Mitchell/Stephen Trask musical
•Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission
•Where: The Abbey, 100 S. Eola Dr., Orlando
•When: 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 11 p.m. Fridays, also 8 p.m. Monday, Jan. 23; through Jan. 23
•Tickets: $23.50; $16.50 students
•Online: TicketWeb.comCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun