Steve Murray

Performing Arts Reviews


Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Book by John Cameron Mitchell
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Trask
Directed by Sailor Galaviz and Jason Hoover
Ray of Light Theatre

I really wanted to like ROLT’s Hedwig. It’s one of my favorite post-punk neo-glam rock musicals with a great score by Stephen Trask. Behind the ferocity and disillusionment of the transgendered Hedwig lies a wounded, sympathetic character yearning for wholeness and intimacy. Neither of these themes is applied successfully here, thwarted by a horrible sound mix and a desire to eliminate nuance for rock stadium posturing.

Told in flashbacks, we learn the story of Hansel, an East German gay boy who falls in love with a US Army Sergeant and sees a way out of his hellish existence. But to do so, he must “leave a little something behind” and undergoes a botched sex-change operation. Hansel becomes Hedwig and is soon abandoned in a Kansas trailer park to fend for herself. Turning tricks for money, she takes a babysitting gig for a general’s son (Tommy), falls in love and grooms him for rock n roll. Bad blood ensues when he steals her songs and becomes a rock superstar while she plays a gigs in a cheap fast food joint.

Coleton Schmitto, who I adored in A.C.T.’s outstanding production of The Unfortunates, delivers a strong physical performance as Hedwig and his lost soulmate Tommy Gnosis. Unfortunately, his delivery of the lyrics, critical to our understanding on this complex character is lost. Similarly, Maya Michal Sherer, who has a superb voice, is overpowered by the band. Lost too is the dichotomy between these two characters, meant to transform from intense passive aggressiveness to empathy.

The band is fantastic and shouldn’t be blamed for the poor mix; David Walker (drums), Diogo Zavadzki (guitar), Lysol Tony-Romeo (bass) and Steven Bolinger on key/guitar all shine. Maggie Whitaker (costumes) and Joe D’Emilio (Lighting design) do excellent work here.

As a loud rock show with elements of drag humor, you can’t beat ROLT’s Hedwig. For those interested in the real thing, I suggest renting John Cameron’s Mitchell’s phenomenal 2001 film.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch continues through October 6th, 2018 at Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th Street, San Francisco. Tickets are available online at https://www. or by calling 415.863.7576.