Entertainment » Theatre

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

by Joe Siegel
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Jan 22, 2019
Kevin Broccoli in "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" at the Academy Players of RI through January 27.
Kevin Broccoli in "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" at the Academy Players of RI through January 27.  

The Academy Players of Rhode Island has delivered a slick, high-energy and wildly entertaining production of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch."

John Cameron Mitchell's famed musical about a transgender rock singer is bawdy, outrageous, and often times deeply touching.

Kevin Broccoli stars as Hedwig, who tells her life story while touring clubs all over the country. Hedwig grew up in East Berlin and underwent a botched sex change operation after falling in love with an American soldier.

When Hedwig's husband dumps her, she reinvents herself as a glamorous chanteuse and forms a rock band she calls "The Angry Inch," a reference to her mangled genitalia.

Hedwig is aided and hindered by her assistant, back-up singer and husband, Yitzhak (Vic Leo), a Jewish drag queen from Yugoslavia. The couple has a tumultuous relationship plagued by verbal abuse and bitter resentment.

Hedwig is also deeply obsessed with rock star Tommy Gnosis' tour around the country. Occasionally Hedwig opens a door onstage to listen to Gnosis's concert, which is playing in a nearby venue.

We learn Hedwig wrote many of Gnosis' most successful songs and was in love with him at one point.

Hedwig is witty, self-deprecating, and exhibits tremendous vulnerability borne from a lifetime of pain and rejection. She does all this while sporting a blond wig, a fur coat, and thigh-high boots.

Hedwig is a larger than life figure and Broccoli more than lives up to the demands of the role. Broccoli affects a German accent and tosses off wisecracks with vigor. Hedwig boasts about once being the tourism spokesperson for Greater Serbia.

Broccoli also is a skilled vocalist and has fun working the stage, accompanied by his singers, "The Wiggs," and his superb backing band, "The Angry Inch," (Tobias Andrews, David Tessier, Garrett Campbell, and Austin Andrews.)

The songs, with music and lyrics by Stephen Trask, are all terrific. Broccoli shines on "The Origin of Love," "Wig in a Box," and "Angry Inch."

The efforts of scenic designer Kyle Renee, lighting designer Alexander Sprague, and director Ted Clement convincingly create the seedy atmosphere of an obscure rock club.

If "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" has a message, it's one of self-acceptance. As the show goes on, Hedwig slowly strips off his clothes to reveal the man underneath. After a great deal of soul searching, he learns to love himself and gives love to Yitzhak in a simple gesture.

Great art often requires great risks. Broccoli took a huge risk by taking on such an outrageous character. There were so many ways it could have gone wrong. Based on his performance here, the risk was well worth it.

"Hedwig and the Angry Inch" runs through January 27. Academy Players of RI. 180 Buttonhole Drive, Providence. For tickets, call 401-830-0880 or visit www.academyplayersri.org

Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.


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