Break out your favorite shimmery glitter and electric blue eyeshadow, my pretties, it’s time for another journey into the belly of the beast of that job we call blow—I mean, business we call show. The instant-classic musical is back, and there is no such thing as too much of the rock diva Hedwig, even if her backing band the Angry Inch is all she has to work with. If you’ve seen the 2001 film, if you saw any of the sold-out performances produced over 2004-’05 by the Mobtown Players starring Jordan Siebert, and even if you saw Iron Crow Theater’s 2010 staging, Stillpointe Theatre’s current production, which makes it second and final stop at the Ottobar tonight, is a must if you’re a fan and as ideal an introduction for newbies as you’ll ever get.
Hedwig is the Citizen Kane of East German genderqueer never-was-a-rock-star epics, and writer/creator John Cameron Mitchell and music/lyricist Stephan Trask workshopped the production in NYC clubs before it debuted off-Broadway in 1998. StillPointe staging this stand-up meets rock gig musical in Baltimore’s stalwart indie-rock venue is a stroke of art direction ingenuity. An intimate rock-club vibe is hard to replicate, and part of me wishes we were still living in the bad, old days when you could stand in a club with a can of cheap beer in one hand and a Lucky Strike in the other. Taking in Hedwig’s wig-flailing, cliché stage antics and her hilariously touching between-songs banter practically invites the self-destructive dance that flits from liver damage to lung cancer and back.
Hedwig—played by workhorse Adam Cooley, who produced, starred, and directed the 2011 productions at Creative Alliance at the Patterson—her husband/backing ground singer Yitzhak (Lex Holzer), and the Angry Inch (bassist Jeff Palladino, guitarist David Gregory, drummer Spencer Sinnott, and keyboard player Stacey Antoine) hit the stage, and over the next roughly 100 minutes she recounts her childhood in East Berlin, botched gender-reassignment surgery, abandonment in middle America by her sugar daddy, and tumultuous love affair with the Christian teenaged son of a military man and the beautifully rocking music they started out making together. Hedwig’s story isn’t so much a triumph over adversity as a celebration of the audacity for dreaming about the supposedly impossible, told through a menagerie of songs that are as genuinely moving as they are patently outlandish. Hedwig‘s songbook is so effortlessly overstuffed with melodrama and longing for decadent 1970s glam that it fills The Darkness with such envy they can’t fit into their tiny leather pants.
And, seriously, if there’s a better way to begin the final weekend of 2017 than singing along with a musical that invites all the strange rock ‘n’ rollers to hold on to each other to get through whatever night is coming, the goddesses have yet to bestow that gift upon us. Lift up your hands. Lift up your fists.
Tickets available online or at the door.