Hedwig Hangs Up Her Wig Off-Broadway, Jan. 30

News   Hedwig Hangs Up Her Wig Off-Broadway, Jan. 30 It's been a long stand at the Jane Street Theatre, but Hedwig and the Angry Inch are finally packing up their gear and moving on. The Off Broadway show will have run almost two years. Opening on Feb. 14, 1998, Hedwig clocked in 777 performances and 12 previews.
Matt McGrath as Hedwig.
Matt McGrath as Hedwig. (Photo by Photo by Carol Rosegg)

It's been a long stand at the Jane Street Theatre, but Hedwig and the Angry Inch are finally packing up their gear and moving on. The Off Broadway show will have run almost two years. Opening on Feb. 14, 1998, Hedwig clocked in 777 performances and 12 previews.

The rock musical's final Hedwig is Matt McGrath, who took over the lead role on Dec. 20, after Ally Sheedy -- the show's first female Hedwig -- abruptly left the production. McGrath's off-Broadway credits include A Fair Country, Minutes from the Blue Route and Northeast Local.

Kevin Cahoon subbed in the show for the week between Sheedy and McGrath. Other Hedwigs have included Michael Cerveris, rocker Donavan Leitch and the show's co-author and original star, John Cameron Mitchell.

Hedwig opened to rave reviews, going on to win two Obie Awards and an Outer Critics Circle Award. The production inspired a cast recording (recently nominated for a Grammy Award), a short-lived L.A. mounting (starring Cerveris) and an upcoming film, supposed to start shooting in May, with originator John Cameron Mitchell both behind the camera and on screen. Christine Vachon ("Boys Don't Cry") is producing for New Line Cinema.

Hedwig was written by Mitchell (book), and Stephen Trask (music and lyrics). In the musical, the title singer, an obscure and tortured transsexual rock singer, tells her darkly comic story while ostensibly performing a concert. The Angry Inch, her back-up band, is Trask's rock combo Cheater, a staple at such downtown New York clubs as CBGB's and Mercury Lounge. *

Many parties will likely point to Sheedy as speeding along Hedwig's demise. The film star parted ways with Hedwig after Saturday night, Dec. 12, nearly two months before her contract was up. The official word (from a press spokesman) was that Sheedy had to leave the show early, and "the producers agreed to let her go." The New York Post has reported, however, that Sheedy's performances had been increasingly erratic, with the producers hoping she would leave right after the holidays.

A spokesperson at the Kornberg office had no comment on the Post's reports that Sheedy had been "dropping songs and ad-libbing lines to the point where audiences could no longer follow the plot." The previous week, the Post reported sources saying that at one performance, Sheedy declined to sing a song and "forced" another actress to sing it instead. Producer James Freydberg wouldn't comment to the Post on the actress' reported difficulties and said instead that, "this is a high-energy show, and she and we felt it would be best for her to be with her family and relax again."

Sheedy made her official debut as Hedwig Oct. 13, after starting previews Sept. 20. She starred in such mid-80s teen comedies as "The Breakfast Club" and "St. Elmo's Fire." Her career was long on the down side, however, when the 1998 art film "High Art" brought her back into the public eye. In that movie, Sheedy played a lesbian, drug-addled, has-been photographer.

Tickets range $20-49.50. For information call (212) 239-6200, or consult the website at www.hedwig.com.

--By Robert Simonson
and David Lefkowitz