While on my way to catch Balagan's new production of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" at the Moore Theatre, I couldn't help but think back to the Nick Garrison production a few years back that was such a huge hit and amounted to a kind of theatrical religious experience for those that saw it including myself. And while I didn't get so much of a Hedwig stigmata from this production (possibly due to the fact I was already born again once so to speak and to be born again, again is just greedy) but I can say that this production is near flawless and completely showcases the true star power of its Hedwig, Jerick Hoffer.
For those that haven't been born again into the glory that is Hedwig (can you tell I really love this show?) it's basically a concert. Punk diva Hedwig and her band, the Angry Inch, have come to melt our brains with their soul shattering show. Along the way Hedwig gives us a look inside her history which has brought her from searching teen in East Berlin through her botched sex change operation (leaving her with only a one inch mound of flesh down there) to her scandalous relationship with now rock star Tommy Gnosis who's sold out stadium concert just happens to be playing down the street. And along for the ride we have her incredible band The Angry Inch (Michael Wells, Andy Roth, Chris Pugh, Michael Owcharuk and Musical Director David Russell) and her husband and whipping boy Yitzhak (Erin Stewart) who back up the diva through all her tantrums and meltdowns to hilarious and often times touching results.
And there's where my experience from the previous incarnation differed. Hoffer and Director Ian Bell have infused more of the humor into the piece than I remember. And it's that humor and likability that gets the audience on Hedwig's side right from the moment she sets foot on stage. Plus Hoffer plays the levels and complexities of the character so well and is so natural that I kept having to remind myself that this was scripted and not completely an off the cuff concert. The band is nothing short of superb and never simply relegate themselves to the background. They are complete characters and an integral part of the story, as is Stewart with her soaring voice and wonderful timing making the put upon Yitzhak more than just a sidekick. But the star of the show is of course Hoffer. Every aspect of his performance is pure gold. Vocals, comedy, choreography, emotion; Hoffer manages it all as if he were born into the role.
The set by Jennifer Zeyl, costumes by K.D. Schill, lighting by Ahren Buhmann and projections by Buhmann and Zeyl are a triumph. The whole show looks more like a professional, polished tour and less like a local one but then I guess that's what I need to expect from Balagan who keeps bringing home the goods. My one complaint was the sound. Occasionally the band levels obliterated the lyrics especially in the more punk moments of the show. And in a show where the lyrics are so gorgeous and key to moving the story along, that is a crime. But like said, it's a minor qualm and only happens occasionally. But on the whole Balagan can chalk up yet another huge smash to their roster and from a theater that only a few years ago was in the basement of a noodle restaurant on the hill, they have plenty to crow about.
"Hedwig and the Angry Inch" from Balagan Theatre performs at the Moore Theatre through January 27th. For tickets or information visit them online at www.balagantheatre.org.
Photo credit: Christopher Nelson