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

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23 Apr 2014

Neil Patrick Harris
Neil Patrick Harris
Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Meet the first-nighters at the Broadway opening of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Neil Patrick Harris, John Cameron Mitchell, Lena Hall and Yoko Ono were there. So was Playbill.com.

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The original and self-created Hedwig turned 51 April 21, 2014, and the next night at the Belasco Theatre, he and his angry inch turned into a Broadway show.

You know it's a Broadway show because this historically notorious (if "internationally ignored") East German transgender front-woman for a rock band descends from the drafty rafters of that venerable old theatre East of Broadway ("E-Bra" or "Broadway Adjacent"), and director Michael Mayer has made certain every colored light in the joint is decorating the moment of arrival. Landing on stage in gold stilettos without a bobble or wobble, Hedwig goes right into an overdrive strut, decked out in cutoff denim shorts and jacket and topped with a massive mane of Barbie blondeness. If memory serves, the original entrance on that perverse Valentine's Day in 1998 was a simple matter of sprinting down the aisles of the Jane Street Theatre in the West Village and springing on stage.

"Well, it's Broadway — it's the big leagues," said this millennium's Hedwig, Neil Patrick Harris, who has inherited the role from last millennium's Hedwig, the also-tripled-named John Cameron Mitchell. This is Harris' way of explaining his hard-driving, high-octane performance and how outrageousness is defined these days.

"If I'm wanting to commit my time to a run of a show," he said, "I'm glad that it gets to be in something like this where I can really be as full-bodied as I can possibly be."

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Lena Hall and Neil Patrick Harris
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

The truth is that the world is too much with us — all of us — and Hedwig's sad story has lost some of its shock effect. Hedwig tells the tale of an East German "slip of a girlyboy" named Hansel, who falls in love with a U.S. soldier and agrees to a sex change operation so they can marry and officially flee Communist control. Unfortunately, the surgery is botched, and Hansel-turned-Hedwig is left with a dysfunctional inch between the legs, hence the name of the band accompanying her vendetta tour.

"Before, the idea of a guy who is really a transgender woman was considered so hardcore it was almost a freak show in its newness," recalled Harris. "Now, so many years later, there's so much talk of transgender that the subject is virtually diffused. People have finally been able to move beyond the deer-in-the-headlights element, and now I get to play the part and tell the story without having to ingratiate myself so much with the audience. It makes me happy they have advanced themselves."

The opposites-attract principal is what brought him to this part. "One of the best things you can get to do as an actor is to play somebody who happens to be not at all like you. You get to put on your makeup and your wig and grow five inches and learn to carry yourself differently, and then talk directly to the audience. I'm exposed, but I think that kind of exposure is the best way to tell our particular story."



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