PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Hedwig and the Angry Inch — Neil in Heels

By Harry Haun
23 Apr 2014

John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Far and away, the best Hurt Locker bio is "ABDUL BATIN (Insurgent/Interpreter/Ahmed/One-Armed Man/Goat): BFA, RADA, MFA,BADA, Ph.D. Oxford, O.B.E. West End: Hamlet (Hamlet), Oedipus (Oedipus), Peer Gynt (Peer Gynt), Medea (Medea). TV/Film: "Homeland" (Terrorist), "House of Cards" (Terrorist),"7th Heaven" (Terrorist), "Modern Family" (Terrorist), "Reba" (Terrorist), "Taken 2" (Owner of Fruit Cart Stand That a Cat Crashes Into)."

One line of credit is given for this in the legitimate Playbill: "Select printed material created by Mike Albo and designed by Stuart Rogers/RED." Albo wrote and starred in a one-man show, The Junket, which recently played the Lynn Redgrave Theatre.

Hurt Locker or no Hurt Locker, Mitchell believes the Belasco was the perfect place for his play to work. It has an air of honorable antiquity to it, something the Phantom might haunt if the role wasn't already taken by David Belasco's ghost.

Hedwig's warm-up acts here include from this season the cross-dressing Brits (albeit, historically accurate men-in-dresses) of Twelfth Night and Richard III and from 2012, MGM's famous burnt-out, drugged-out superstar in End Of The Rainbow.

"What I'm realizing, oddly," pondered Mitchell, "is how much of a traditional Broadway show it is in terms of the narrative — the outsider picking herself up. It's an old-fashioned story. It's just that the specifics are unusual — the sex change, the Berlin stuff, the punk rock. The outfit is new. The music is actually old — it's '70s-influenced rock, glam and punk and everything in between — so it's bits and pieces that have been in different venues: Broadway, a musical stage, a standup stage, a drag show. Borscht Belt jokes — I mean, how many Jewish jokes are there? Get in a story about an outsider pushing through, trying to find union, which is really what all kinds of Broadway shows are about. It's like, who am I? Gypsy? I never made it. It's the same story. 'Nights of Cabiria.' The prostitute that's looking for love. How traditional, tried-and-true Hedwig is, and how much of a Broadway show it is."

Creating Hedwig created a new Mitchell, who is now a successful writer-director in Hollywood (he helmed an excellent film adaptation of David Lindsay-Abaire's Pulitzer Prize-winning Rabbit Hole). "I was so spoiled by doing Hedwig, so I sorta gave up acting. I acted a little in that Showgirls, but I haven't really acted in 13 years, and I haven't been particularly tempted. Once in a while my phone rings, but I want it to be awesome. I'm working on a sequel to Hedwig so I'll probably play that. It's very dark. It's not ready for Broadway today — maybe Broadway 15 years from now."

Director Mayer, who wound up bringing the show to Broadway, was the best possible person for the assignment, given his history (Spring Awakening and American Idiot), working as confidently in the rock idiom as DeMille worked in the Red Sea. Interestingly, he was in on the ground floor of the project 18 years ago.