Hedwig and the Angry Inch, a cult 1998 punk rock musical written by and starring John Cameron Mitchell, with music and lyrics by Stephen Trask, is back onstage. The gritty rock musical has softened its edges a bit for Broadway, but Hedwig, the transgender rock artist at the heart of the show, is still as angry as ever, and her life and voice will mesmerize you. The new cast album, helmed by Neil Patrick Harris and Lena Hall, both of whom won Tonys for their performances, is a must-have for every Broadway collection. These are some of the highlights:
This bouncy, clever song is made irresistible by the pair of Neil Patrick Harris and Lena Hall. Listening to them perform this number is pure joy. Harris plays Hedwig more playfully, and much more softly, than John Cameron Mitchell, breathing new life into the song. His acting perfectly embodies Hedwig's camp. The already-catchy song is made even catchier by the new orchestrations, livelier and smoother than the 1998 recording. Get ready to put this song on repeat, and leave it there.
A soulful ballad, "Wig In A Box" is one of Hedwig's little treasures. Harris sings this number so tenderly, it's almost an entirely new song. Harris is more of an actor-singer than Mitchell, and he powerfully plays Hedwig's raw emotion here. He's much easier to identify with. In Hedwig spirit, the song manages to be both wistful and happy, giving us a glimpse of the "real" girl that Hedwig wants so desperately to be. The new recording features some of the scripted ad libbing that the Broadway production has ("What's an eight-track?" Harris quips as Hedwig). With the transgender community even larger and more visible now than in 1998 when Hedwig opened, the time for a song like this has come. More than a character song, this is an anthem for the trans community.
This song, one of the most well known in the show, is a delight to listen to on this recording. Harris sings this very gently, making the song more tuneful than Mitchell's gruff version. It's actually very pleasant to listen to, not something that anyone would probably have said about the original production.
Another gem from the show, this heartfelt ballad is knocked out of the park by Harris. The instrumentals in this recording take this song to a new level. When Mitchell sings the song, his voice is still gruff, but Harris’s Hedwig drops her guard more completely, giving this song more of her genuine emotion. Harris’s singing isn’t perfect for this role and this show -- he struggles a bit with the number “Angry Inch,” which is meant to be shouted heavy metal-style -- but he shines on these tender songs, and that is well worth whatever is lost on the punk front.
In this production of Hedwig, they have rewritten the show so that the characters take over the Belasco Theater for a night, stealing it from Hurt Locker: The Musical. This song, written new for the show as a joke number, is surprisingly catchy, ridiculousness aside. And hey, who wouldn’t want to see a Stephen Trask Hurt Locker: The Musical on Broadway 2015?