The Belasco Theatre on 44th Street was packed with "strange rock and rollers" who came to celebrate Harris' last performance as the transsexual "internationally ignored songstress"; the excitement was palpable as fans shared stories of how they first discovered the musical or the number of times they had seen the current production. Screams and cheers erupted when John Cameron Mitchell, who wrote the book of the show and played the title role in its Off-Broadway debut at the Jane Street Theatre, entered the house, and a lengthy standing ovation immediately followed.
The applause continued as the band members of the Angry Inch entered the stage, followed by Lena Hall, who won the Tony for Best Featured Actress in a musical for performance as Yitzhak, Hedwig's husband.
Read Playbill.com's Brief Encounter with Lena Hall here and watch her backstage transformation into Yitzhak here. "It's like Christmas morning," I whispered to my seatmate, who promptly responded with, "It might be better," as she raised her double champagne in a toast to the stage.
From the moment the opening song, "Tear Me Down," began, the audience lip-synched and danced along, clapping to the on (or off) beat, and seemingly delighting in the attention Harris gave them, which included dancing in their laps, kissing them, licking their glasses or spitting water onto them from the stage. The song "Sugar Daddy" received a mid-show standing ovation, while Harris remained standing centerstage, holding the microphone above his head. The audience's enthusiasm played an integral part in the show, with one person even saying, "F*ck that guy!" when Hedwig first mentioned his former lover Tommy Gnosis. Many were heard crying as the opening notes of "Wig in a Box" played, and each of the many wigs Harris donned throughout the song received individual rounds of applause. After wiping his face with a handkerchief and declaring it "the shroud of Hedwig," Harris tossed it into the audience, saying dismissively, "Fight for it," which many did.
Aside from an ongoing joke asking a woman if she saw the ghost that reputedly haunts the Belasco — "Don't toy with my emotions. Not on a night like this" — Harris did not acknowledge that it was his final evening with the show. But following Hall's moving rendition of "The Long Grift," both he and Hall were visibly crying. The two shared a lengthy embrace at curtain call, which lasted for several minutes and numerous returns of the cast to the stage. When Harris left the stage for the final time, he blew a kiss and mouthed the words, "Thank you so much" to the audience.
Much of the audience lingered in the theatre after the curtain call, speaking with Mitchell and Stephen Trask, who wrote the music and lyrics for the show, while others rushed into the street to wait for the cast to emerge from the theatre. The street was filled with self-proclaimed "Hed-heads," some wearing blonde wigs and glitter-adorned outfits in honor of the character.
"Where is Neil?" a woman asked me on the sidewalk outside the Belasco. Walking through the crowds of people, which packed the sidewalks on either side of 44th Street, she repeated her question, "Where is Neil?"
Kim DePland had traveled from New Haven, CT, to see the performance, which she said was "everything I hoped for and more." After being sold fake tickets for the Wednesday-night performance, she was standing outside the theatre when she heard a box-office attendant announce that premium seats were being sold for Harris' last show. A self-proclaimed "school freak," she felt a strong tie to the character of Hedwig, which she first encountered when seeing the movie on her 19th birthday.
"When I had the choice, why not see the best?" she said. "At the last minute, you always give your all." The Broadway premiere of the cult rock musical began previews March 29 at the Belasco Theatre, prior to an official opening April 22, starring Harris in the title role. The Broadway cast recording of the production was released digitally June 12.
Watch Neil Patrick Harris perform "Sugar Daddy" at the Tony Awards below.
For more information, visit HedwigBroadway.com.