Musical marvel: Falsies bring <I>Hedwig</I> to life
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a brilliantly written play. You don't need me to tell you that. Just type the name in the Google search engine, and you'll find accolade upon accolade for writer John Cameron Mitchell.
The play began as an off-Broadway musical and moved into the ranks of cult cinema. The movie received two Sundance Film awards and a Golden Globe nomination for Mitchell, who convincingly played the lead.
Truth be told, musicals are hit or miss with me. I'm one of the few (and proud) who believe Andrew Lloyd Webber is a hack, and Jesus Christ Superstar was a fluke. Starlight Express was good only because I had to travel all the way to London to see it done right. I think I was just happy to be in London.
Obviously it takes a damn good musical to tickle me funny zones or arouse me tenderloins.
However, it would take a concerted effort at being horrible to ruin Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The play is so well written and the music so entertaining that one would actually have to try to botch it in order for it not to be decent.
Luckily, we live in an artistic community equipped with a mid-sized pool of fabulously freakish fish. Freakish fish are definitely needed when putting on a play about a fame-hungry transsexual rock star who hasn't quite gotten over her failed sex-change operation.
When director John Owen cast his lure into the water, he couldn't have snagged a more appropriate group to execute the play than The Falsies.
The Falsies are a new rock group, but the members are no strangers to the local scene. The band is composed of former member of The Naked Puritans, the Marzaks, and Vomit Up Blood, plus a few newcomers.
Lead singer Peter Markush plays the role of Hedwig, while the rest of the Falsies play members of Hedwig's band, The Angry Inch. The entire musical is like attending a rock concert where in-between song banter by the lead singer acts as darkly comical and wit-infused monologues revealing the action of the story.
Markush brings the character of Hedwig alive during the monologues, but he is strongest during the musical numbers where he shows his range as a singer and performer.
Hedwig is not quite a one-man-show even though it very much feels that way. The band is more like a moving prop– their involvement in the story itself is minimal. I almost forgot they were there during a couple of Hedwig's longer self-indulgent rants.
However, their presence becomes well known during the musical numbers. The Falsies do a great job with Stephen Trask's masterful song writing.
What I like most about the band is their very laid-back, loose playing. Their casual, don't-take-this-too-seriously attitude meshes perfectly with the alternative '80s NYC punk rock aesthetic they portray. Although the playing is casual, it's well executed. Most importantly, it doesn't overshadow the part of Hedwig. He/she was the reason we were all there in the first place.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is quite an enjoyable experience. It would be hard to mess the play up, but, in all honesty, the group exceeded my expectations. The character of Hedwig has a lot of layers. I would love to see Markush allow the subtleties of Hedwig to shine through. Only then can the audience deeply sympathize with her character– and comfortably laugh with her through her tragedies and triumphs.