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Inching toward stardom


In Hampden, he was pelted with gummy bears. In Frederick, a woman licked his sweaty, glitter-strewn chest after the show.

Jordan Siebert's portrayal of the transgendered title character in Hedwig and the Angry Inch may provoke unusual reactions, but it could also be the big break for this 24-year-old Baltimore-born actor, who has been toiling in dinner theaters since he was 5.

"I think there's definitely a place for him in theater beyond dinner theater or community theater. The man can sing. He can dance. He designs costumes. He does lights. He is like a quadruple threat," says Terry J. Long, director of Hedwig. "I think he's a canvas that is just now starting to get painted on. There's so much that I think this young man can do."

Siebert has already done more than he or Long ever expected with Hedwig - a 1998 off-Broadway rock musical about an East German victim of a botched sex-change operation. Long's production of the small-scale show - script by John Cameron Mitchell (who created the role and also starred in the 2001 movie); score by Stephen Trask - opened at Mobtown Players in October. It sold out its initial run and played a second sold-out run in January.

That's when producer Nicholas A. Litrenta, president of Performing Arts Productions, saw the show and was "overwhelmed." After some supporting-cast and costume changes, Litrenta produced Hedwig in Norfolk, Va., in April and in Frederick for two performances earlier this month. Now he's brought it back to Baltimore for a commercial engagement at the Theatre Project.

Gay Pride events

And, in case donning Hedwig's blond wig, fishnet stockings, high heels and false eyelashes eight times a week isn't enough, on Saturday, Siebert will participate in several Gay Pride events. At 4 p.m., dressed in full Hedwig regalia, he'll be part of the parade that begins at Charles and Franklin streets. Then he'll head to the Theatre Project for the 5 p.m. performance of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. After that, he'll make an appearance on the Gay Pride main stage at 7:20 p.m., then it's back to the Theatre Project for the 8:30 p.m. show, followed by an 11 p.m. rock concert (still in the guise of Hedwig) at Grand Central, 1001/1003 N. Charles St.

"Being homosexual is not asking for special rights, but equal rights," says Siebert, whose partner, Robbie Heacock, is a local actor/designer whom Siebert met when Heacock designed the sound for Hedwig at Mobtown.

Besides lending his personal support to the weekend festival, Siebert believes Hedwig gives him a chance to spread the character's message of self-acceptance to a wider audience.

"This show applies to everyone," he says, mentioning that when he looks out at the audience, he has seen theatergoers ranging from blue-haired matrons to gay men to "enamored teenage girls."

"Everyone who comes to this show has been in a bad relationship, male or female; has been downtrodden; has been beaten; has risen from the ashes like a phoenix," he says.

Performing at age 4

This son of born-again Christians has come a long way since he first performed, at age 4, in a play about a singing psalm book at Trinity Lutheran Church in Joppa. A year later, he got his first paying job - Dopey in Snow White at F. Scott Black's Dinner Theatre in Towson. "I saved his first paycheck," says Siebert's mother, Samantha, a homemaker and former model.

To get that Towson job, young Jordan had to be able to read a script - so he taught himself, with the aid of a book about Mickey Mouse. Before long, he says, "I was paying for my own crayons, my own glue sticks. I was the only one who had completely paid off my jar of paste."

According to his parents, who now live in Arizona, Jordan's interest in show business surfaced even earlier. "Jordan told us when he was 3 years old that he was going to be an actor and a singer and a dancer," says his father, George, a flooring installer. The same year, his mother entered him in a pageant at the Towson Holiday Inn. Jordan did a Cindy Lauper impersonation, complete with little skirt and wig. He won first place.

Even for supportive parents, however, Hedwig could be a stretch. But George and Samantha Siebert saw the show at Mobtown and are back in Baltimore this weekend to see it at the Theatre Project. The Sieberts have seen most of their son's other roles - from Jack in the Beanstalk in a production of Into the Woods at Aberdeen High School to the male lead in Miracle on 34th Street, the show that opened Just Left of Broadway, a dinner theater Siebert co-founded in Essex in November. (The actor will portray the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz there starting July 15.)

Parents impressed

When it came to Hedwig, Siebert gave his parents an advance briefing. "Because of our 'faith walk,' he wanted to make sure we wouldn't walk out," George Siebert explains, adding, "We would never do that." In fact, his father says, "We were both extremely impressed with how he played the part."

Structured like a rock concert performed by a band called Hedwig and the Angry Inch, the show provides a forum for Hedwig to tell her life story. That story begins in East Berlin where a boy named Hansel undergoes sex-change surgery so he can marry a G.I. and move to America. The surgery and the marriage both end in ruin. Hansel-turned-Hedwig then falls in love with an aspiring rocker named Tommy Gnosis (whom Siebert also portrays). Tommy becomes a superstar, breaks Hedwig's heart and abandons her, and Hedwig strikes out on her own.

In the show, Hedwig travels to each city where Tommy tours, and her band performs at low-rent venues next to the posh sites of Tommy's concerts. At the Theatre Project, Siebert's Hedwig explains that Tommy is playing at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. Other local references are also thrown in, as well as improvisations, which Siebert changes according to current events, the audience or his mood. "Jordan is one of the quickest improv actors I have worked with," says director Long.

Before Hedwig, Siebert's experience with improvisation consisted of a stand-up routine he performed at Laffs Comedy Club in Tucson when he lived in Arizona in 2002, and appearances in Tony n' Tina's Wedding and Joey & Gina's Italian Wedding at Lorenzo's Timonium Dinner Theatre.

But the quick-change mentality needed for improvisation comes naturally to him, which is handy for someone who finds himself portraying macho Danny Zuko, the lead in Grease at Just Left of Broadway Dinner Theatre, one day, and Hedwig, the self-described "girlie boy," the next.

"My life is really an improv," Siebert says. "I wake up in the morning and funny stuff just starts happening. It keeps me laughing, which is good for the heart."

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Where: Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston St.

When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Fridays, 5 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Saturdays, 5 p.m. Sundays. Through July 3

Tickets: $29-$39

Call: 410-547-SEAT

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