In Play Reviews

Delphon “DJ” Curtis Jr. and Ithica Tell in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Owen Carey photo.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch,  John Cameron Mitchell (book) and Stephen Trask‘s (music and lyrics) drag show cum Broadway musical, is now onstage in the Ellyn Bye Studio at Portland Center Stage at the Armory.

With Delphon “DJ” Curtis Jr. as Hedwig and Ithica Tell as Yitzhak, Hedwig’s most recent husband, the story follows Hedwig (nee Hansel Schmidt) Robinson, a genderqueer East German singer of a  rock and roll band, through musical and romantic escapades in Germany, a botched sex change, a Kansas trailer park, and back to Germany again in her search for her true identity.

Delphon “DJ” Curtis Jr.
Owen Carey photo.

Energized, outrageous, and more than a little crazy, Hedwig evokes The Rocky Horror Show, Lou Reed, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Storm Large’s Crazy Enough, and elements of Portuguese fado. The story is wildly melodramatic, with pounding rock music and Beyoncé-inspired costumes and wigs. It’s a pop-culture/cult happening that Portland-area Hedwig aficionados will need to see again. And again.

Delphon Curtis has put his indelible mark on this show and made it his own! Director Chip Miller, PCS associate producer, and the talented creative team have tweaked the script just enough to add some iconic Portland touches.

Hedwig the musical has nearly as interesting a history as that of Hedwig herself. The show developed from band gigs in a New York City drag-punk club called Squeezebox, and others, and draws loosely upon its creator Mitchell’s childhood as an Army brat. After four years, the show developed into a full-blown musical, and enjoyed it’s off-Broadway opening starring Mitchell as Hedwig in 1998. Hedwig was made into a movie in 2001, and revived as a Broadway musical in 2014.

Delphon “DJ” Curtis and Ithica Tell. Owen Carey photo.

Mitchell grew up on Army bases in West Germany, Scotland, and other locations, and had a babysitter–a German divorcee–who moonlighted as a prostitute out of her trailer home in Junction City, Kansas. (Life is so much stranger than fiction!) Thus, the character Hedwig was born.

It is in a derelict shopping mall, in front of a closed Chili’s restaurant, that Hedwig shares her tale of woes and triumphs with a small, clubby audience. As crazy as it is, the show embodies the universal themes of survival, self-worth, identity, love, and the quest to belong.

Hedwig’s Angry Inch band features band director/percussionist Darian Anthony Patrick, with Maria Del Castillo, Jasmine Linee Wood, and Nsayi Matingou. The creative team includes Amir Shirazi, music director; Britton Mauk, scenic designer; Dominique Fawn Hill, costume designer; Avi Sheehan, lighting designer; Em Gustason, sound designer; Jamie Leonard, video designer; Jessica Miller, wig designer; Janine Vanderhoff, stage manager; Karl Hanover, dialect coach; and Dana Peterson, production assistant.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch runs through February 23 at Portland Center Stage.




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