Internationally ignored musician, Hedwig, decides to tell her life story at a concert and perhaps discover her missing half at the same time. This is Hedwig and the Angry Inch currently playing at the Waiting Room Lounge under the auspices of Rave On Productions and is the debut performance for their Omaha Series.
This was one of the most refreshingly original shows I have viewed. Powered by hard hitting rock songs and power ballads by Stephen Trask, John Cameron Mitchell has written a pretty deep and moving tale framed within a rock concert. Hedwig, born Hansel, has always been searching for her missing half i.e. her soulmate. And she has gone through a lot to find that soulmate. From living with a mother who showed no love to enduring a botched gender reassignment surgery to escape communist East Berlin to surviving as a hooker to having her songs stolen by a lover she thought was “the one”, Hedwig has lived a fascinating, if difficult life. The pressure seems to be finally getting to her as she feels compelled to share her life’s story and her grip on reality weakens with each passing moment until the final song when. . .well, you’ll have to see the show to find that out.
Kimberly Faith Hickman’s direction soars throughout the production. This show has beats aplenty and Hickman knows how to hit them all as she has guided her lead actor through the myriad twists and turns of Hedwig’s emotional journey. She clearly understood the end game of this show and knew the most interesting and correct path to get her Hedwig to that point. I especially liked how she made certain Hedwig was always at the right emotional pitch when segueing into the musical numbers making the transitions seamless.
Jesse White has placed himself thoroughly in the running for the OEA Outstanding Actor in a Musical prize for his performance as Hedwig. White is so natural and believable as the glam rocker. He snaps off Hedwig’s numerous double entendres with effortless ease and gently leads the audience down Hedwig’s emotional road. The nuance in his voice is beautiful and captures the subtlest emotion usually best exemplified with Hedwig’s cruel treatment of her husband, Yitzhak. White never gets loud, but his delivery has a barbed nature that really ticks you off.
White also has a good knack for improvisation with his reactions to the audience, especially in his handling of a couple of boisterous audience members on a few occasions. He’s also got a knock out, power tenor singing voice that tore the house down in numbers such as “Tear Me Down”, “Sugar Daddy”, “Wig In a Box” and “Wicked Little Town”.
I am constantly amazed by the talent of Evelyn Hill whenever she takes the stage. Though she’s only a high school senior, she’s already built a reputation as one of Omaha’s finest musical talents. This time her pantomime skills are on fine display in this production. Her Yitzhak rarely speaks, but his expressions speak volumes with the utter disdain and hatred he harbors towards Hedwig for suppressing his far greater natural talent and keeping him from performing as a drag queen which he loves. Hill even gets a few moments to wow us with her musical chops as she briefly belts out “I Will Always Love You” and takes over on “Exquisite Corpse”.
But what is a singer without a band? Under the musical direction of Matthew McGuigan, the Angry Inch (Matthew McGuigan, Ryan McGuigan, Larell Ware, Max Meyer, Jay Hanson) shines as they superlatively rock out the score of this show. Amanda Fehlner nails the costumes with the glam look of the Angry Inch which conjured images of Twisted Sister and the look of Hedwig who appears to be the next coming of Ziggy Stardust.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is an explosive theatrical debut for Rave On Productions and one I feel has the potential to be a big awards season darling. If you’re ready for a night of safe, socially distanced entertainment, give this rocker a try.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch plays at the Waiting Room Lounge (6212 Maple St, Omaha, NE) through Feb 27. Ticket prices are $35 and can be purchased at https://www.etix.com/ticket/e/1016517/hedwig-omaha-the-waiting-room. Showtimes are Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fri-Sat at 7:30pm and 10pm and Sundays at 7pm. Due to mature themes and language, this show is not suitable for children.