×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Broadway Review: ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’ Starring Neil Patrick Harris

Harris channels Iggy Pop and Lou Reed by way of the Ramones, not to mention his inner Rockette, in this spectacular revival of the 1998 musical.

With:
Neil Patrick Harris, with Lena Hall. Musicians: Justin Craig, Matt Duncan, Tim Mislock, Peter Yanowitz.

The screaming starts when a bespangled Neil Patrick Harris parachutes onstage in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and doesn’t stop until he’s back in his dressing room. That’s the kind of rock-star performance he gives in this spectacular revival — helmed with fabulous flash by Michael Mayer — of the 1998 musical (and later movie) by John Cameron Mitchell (book) and Stephen Trask (music & lyrics).  Harris’ Hedwig is an imperfectly transformed transgender woman who grew up in East Berlin before the wall came down, resplendent in the punk drag of a nihilistic rocker but still concealing a heap of hurt under her wig.

After touching down in a totally trash outfit (costumer Arianne Phillips’ satirical sendup of punk sartorial style), Hedwig opens the show with a loudly defiant “Tear Me Down.” “I’m the new Berlin Wall,” she howls, “Try and tear me down!”

At which point, her flunky Yitzhak (Lena Hall, adoration pooling out of her eyes) provides some deadpan background on the Berlin Wall. With respect, she informs us that Hedwig, whose botched sex-change operation left her a woman with vestiges of manhood, is “like that wall, standing before you in the divide between East and West.” Or, as howling Hedwig would have it, “Enemies and adversaries / They try and tear me down!”

So now we know where we are, in a rock concert with political as well as psychosexual overtones. What fun! But Julian Crouch’s set had already tipped us off about that.  A bizarrely imaginative art installation of broken brick walls, bombed-out buildings, charred automobiles and flying debris, this scene of carnage is supposedly the detritus left from “Hurt Locker: The Musical” (a war narrative with “explosions, negligible storytelling, camouflage and tits,” according to a mock program) that opened and closed at the same Broadway theater in one night — actually, during intermission.

Before he gets down to serious rocking, Harris slips into the storyteller mode that earned him accolades (and Emmys) for the four Tony Awards ceremonies he’s hosted. After acknowledging the history (and resident ghost) of the venerable Belasco Theater by licking the floor trod by Brando and the Barrymores, he tosses off a few topical jokes, including one stinker that’s probably still bouncing off the bricks in Shubert Alley.

After establishing his bona fides as a raunchy raconteur, Harris picks up Hedwig’s hilariously sad story with a vengeance: her deprived boyhood in East Berlin, her mother’s mythic bedtime story stolen from Aristophanes (“The Origin of Love”), her deflowering by an American G.I. (“Sugar Daddy”), the unfortunate operation (“Angry Inch”), the husband who abandoned her in a Kansas trailer park (“Wig in a Box”), and finally her bottoming out (the standout, “Wicked Little Town”).

But for all the cleverness of the book and the pathos of Hedwig the character, this is a true rock concert. The band may be wearing fashionable glam-rock costumes rather than ripped T-shirts and shredded jeans and safety pins in their nostrils, but the music (and the anger fueling it) is closer to punk rock and more in step with Hedwig’s nihilist inclinations.

It’s astonishing how polished a physical performance Harris gives. Channeling his inner Rockette, along with Iggy Pop and Lou Reed by way of the Ramones, he carries off some advanced dance and acrobatic moves, while showing a lot of shapely leg. In “Hedwig’s Lament,” the diva returns to her constant complaint of being cut up into pieces — torn from her true love, from her musical partner, from her divided homeland, from her missing penis, from her beloved wigs. But in Harris’ bravura performance, she manages to integrate about 30 years of rock musical styles. Which ain’t peanuts.

Broadway Review: 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch' Starring Neil Patrick Harris

Belasco Theater; 1007 seats; $144 top. Opened April 22, 2014. Reviewed April 19. Running time: 1 HOUR, 35 MIN.

Production: A David Binder, Jayne Baron Sherman, Barbara Whitman, Latitude Link, Patrick Catullo, Raise the Roof, Paula Marie Black, Colin Callender, Ruth Hendel, Sharon Karmazin, Martian Entertainment, Stacey Mindich, Eric Schnall and the Shubert Organization presentation of a musical in one act with a book by John Cameron Mitchell and music and lyrics by Stephen Trask.

Creative: Directed by Michael Mayer. Set, Julian Crouch; costumes, Arianne Phillips; lighting, Kevin Adams; sound, Tim O'Heir; projections, Benjamin Pearcy  for 59 Prods.; wigs and makeup, Mike Potter; music supervisor and coordinator, Ethan Popp; music director, Justin Craig; vocal supervisor, Liz Caplan; musical staging, Spencer Liff; production stage manager, Lisa Iacucci.

Cast: Neil Patrick Harris, with Lena Hall. Musicians: Justin Craig, Matt Duncan, Tim Mislock, Peter Yanowitz.

More Legit

  • Could Anyone Follow ‘Springsteen on Broadway’?

    Could Anyone Follow 'Springsteen on Broadway'? Here Are Five Things They'd Need (Guest Column)

    After 235-odd shows, with grosses in excess of $100 million, a Special Tony Award and a hotly anticipated Netflix special debuting Saturday, “Springsteen on Broadway” is an unprecedented Broadway blockbuster. As with any success in entertainment, the rush to replicate The Boss’ one-man show reportedly is under way, with a consortium led by Live Nation, CAA [...]

  • Clueless review

    Off Broadway Review: 'Clueless' the Musical

    How does a musical stage adaptation of Amy Heckerling’s 1995 film comedy of oblivious privileged teens, “Clueless,” play in the era of female empowerment and millennial engagement? True, the principal skills of lead teen Cher Horowitz are the superficial ones of mall shopping and makeovers. But her sweet spirit and independence, plus some added P.C. relevance, [...]

  • Ley Line Unveils Brian Wilson Documentary,

    Ley Line Unveils Brian Wilson Documentary, 'Hugo Cabret' Musical

    Producers Tim Headington and Theresa Steele Page have unveiled Ley Line Entertainment with a Brian Wilson documentary and a “Hugo Cabret” musical in the works. Ley Line said it’s a content development, production, and financing company with projects spanning film, television, stage, and music. Headington financed and produced “The Young Victoria,” “Argo,” “Hugo,” and “World [...]

  • Daniel Radcliffe

    Listen: How Broadway Made Daniel Radcliffe a Better Actor

    Acting onstage has been a regular part of Daniel Radcliffe’s career for more than a decade — and the “Harry Potter” star says there’s a good reason for that: It’s made him better. “It gives me a lot of confidence as an actor, which is not always something that I’ve felt,” Radcliffe said on the [...]

  • The Jungle review

    Off Broadway Review: 'The Jungle'

    With the rumbling of semis careening by and the sound of Middle Eastern music in the distance, “The Jungle” aims to vividly immerse audiences into the world of the real-life migrant and refugee camp of the same name. By telling the story of the Jungle’s creation in Calais, France, in 2015, and its eventual destruction [...]

  • Hillary Clinton'Network' play opening night, New

    Hillary Clinton Attends Opening of Broadway's 'Network'

    A 1976 film might not be expected to translate seamlessly to Broadway in 2018, but for the cast and creative team behind “Network,” which premiered Thursday night with Hillary Clinton in the audience, the story still feels uncomfortably close to home. “It was a satire then, and now it’s documentary realism,” said Lee Hall, who [...]

  • 'Network' Review: Bryan Cranston Stars on

    Broadway Review: 'Network' With Bryan Cranston

    The 1976 film “Network” won four Academy Awards, including best original screenplay for writer Paddy Chayefsky, for its blistering portrayal of an American society fueled by greed and bloated on corruption. A haggard Peter Finch took the best actor trophy for his harrowing performance as Howard Beale, a TV newsman who is so disgusted by [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content