From Stage to Silver Screen: Top 15 Movie Musicals of the Last 50 Years

By Ben Rimalower
14 Sep 2013

John Cameron Mitchell

4. "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" (2001, directed by John Cameron Mitchell)

I was a huge fan of the original Off-Broadway production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, written by and starring John Cameron Mitchell, and I returned to the Jane Street Theatre 10 times to see all the Hedwigs. It was striking how well, and how differently, the show worked with each of them. There were even fascinating differences between John Cameron Mitchell’s initial run in the show (when Hedwig's obscurity seemed essential to the story) and his later return before one of the announced closing dates (when he was given a rock star's reception by an adoring fan audience who knew every word of the score and script). “Hedwig” was always great.

Directing and starring the film himself, Mitchell employed to great advantage that very malleability of the script (a performance by Hedwig) by anchoring each scene at a different stop along Hedwig's tour, allowing for a great variety of audience dynamics to contextualize Hedwig's performance as well the backstage story.

The backstage story, or plot of Hedwig, was also given a much more explicit treatment to expand a story, which inititally could have been almost ignored as connective tissue and between-song "patter" into a full cinematic arc. All of this ensured that the hilarious and moving story of Hedwig (and Stephen Trask's stunningly wonderful songs, in some ways the first true rock musical score as opposed to musical theatre pastiches of rock) would be preserved in perfection for eternity.


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