PROVO — It has been 16 months since An Other Theater Company has produced a show on their stage at the Provo Towne Center mall, following the Covid-19 pandemic closures. Kicking off the new season with a celebration, they have brought back their exceptional production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. After my rave review of the original production in 2019, I have been looking forward to this remount since I first heard about it. With high expectations, I was anticipating nothing short of excellence and AOTC delivered with this energetic and fun musical.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch, with a book by John Cameron Mitchell and music and lyrics by Steven Trask, follows the character of Hedwig, a glamorous transgender rock performer from East Berlin during communist reign. In order to escape the political climate and be married, Hedwig is forced to undergo what would become a botched sex change operation. The musical recounts Hedwig’s history concerning her love life, musical career, and her band, The Angry Inch, so titled as a play on Hedwig’s anatomy. The musical is a lively, loud, and irreverently humorous exploration of identity and gender.
Directed by Kacey Spadafora, most of the original cast and crew were able to return for this remount, making the production largely very similar to the original. Sound design and mixing by James Mayo, along with the original production musical direction by Marshall Madsen, brought the music to life and truly made it the forefront of the production. With songs inspired from musical icons of the past, and a punk rock queer aesthetic, the show is presented as a one-woman concert of sorts starring Hedwig. The Angry Inch band is featured on stage, and provides the instrumental music in the production, as well as backup singing for Hedwig. Members of the band are guitarist Krzyzhoff (played by Robert Ikey Starks), Jacek (played by Celeste Fay) on bass, drummer Schlacto (played by Scott Robinson), and Skszp (played by Matt Oviatt) on keyboards. All were exceptional in their musical abilities and helped to drive the energy of the production.
My feelings about the musical direction and design echo my original thoughts, with high praise for all of the design elements that work together synergistically. Emma Belnap‘s lighting design, based on Ryan Fallis’s original design, was often vivid and intense, always pairing perfectly with the music or context of the show. I particularly enjoyed the brightly colored lights and disorienting strobe effects. Scott Cladwell’s set design is simple, with a largely bare stage and just some blocks, which worked nicely for this production. Also responsible for the projections design, Cladwell’s projections were the most theatrical design element that added just enough fun and flavor to the unadorned set.
For this production, actors Jordan Kramer and Laura Elise Chapman alternate playing the two roles of Hedwig and Yitzhak, Hedwig’s husband. The night I attended featured Jordan Kramer as the commanding queen, Hedwig. Kramer demands attention with his demeanor, and his extremely expressive actions and facial expressions make it hard to look away. He is quirky and humorous, skilled at comedic timing and interacting with the audience, making sure his jokes always land. I especially loved seeing the dynamic nature of his character. When Hedwig would impersonate other people, Kramer utilized obvious vocal changes and inflections to distinguish between different characters. Kramer is not afraid to emotionally expose himself, allowing for moments of intense and moving vulnerability.
As Hedwig’s counterpart, Yitzhak, Chapman is remarkable. I loved watching her be a backup for Hedwig, essentially holding the whole show together doing various tasks, such as holding the mic for Hedwig and making sure cords are moved out of the way. Yitzhak is clearly more talented, and as the two characters compete for attention, Chapman shines whenever given the opportunity.
One of my favorite moments between the two characters occurred when they were both looking into the same mirror seeing their own reflections in the musical number “Wicked Little Town.” It is clear that neither of them like what they see, perhaps wanting to be more like the other. I was moved when Hedwig looked at Yitzhak performing with astonishment. As their roles within the show begin to shift, it seems they are both filled with love for themselves, each other and humanity.
A beautiful and enjoyable story, AOTC’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a masterful production. With incredibly talented actors and direction, I am equally excited to see the other version of this production. I am also looking forward to the rest of the season, and what is hopefully a return to normalcy in theatre attendance.