“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” by John Cameron Mitchell with music and lyrics by Stephen Trask is probably one of the most outrageously offensive pieces of literary material to be performed anywhere. It is also well written and can be staged expertly. It is also true that there is an audience that is not offended by this type of material as well as an audience that secretly enjoys being offended. This is not a show for the youth group at your church, not a show for grandmothers, godparents, parents or discussing by the water cooler when the boss may overhear. This is a show that, if it is performed expertly, is deliciously decadent, decidedly disgusting and delightfully disturbing. This is the show that is being performed through September 8th at the Freede Little Theatre in the Civic Center Music Hall in Oklahoma City. “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is presented by the Oklahoma City Theatre Company and is directed by Christopher Castleberry. This is not the first time “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” has been performed for Oklahoma City audiences and will not be the last time because it is just that good. It is always received with joy for the audience that is tolerant of alternative lifestyles and demanding of excellent performances.
Managing Director Deborah Draheim and Artistic Director Rachel Irick are not afraid to present controversial material, because they have the competence of excellent directors to depend upon. Christopher Castleberry directs this production and he does so with excellence. The set is a great design from Castleberry as well. Scott Hynes is the Lighting Designer, and his designs are executed beautifully by a well-trained crew.
The story line is simple: A rock concert is being given by “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” with the star being Hedwig and band members who consist of ‘The Angry Inch’. Hedwig is most definitely alternative and tells of a life story that is tragic and hopeful yet sunk in the depths of depravity. The music must be up to the level of a professional rock and roll band. Hedwig must have a vocal quality to compete with any lead singer of a successful rock and roll band.
Each band member comes from a different band or solo act currently being performed in the Oklahoma City area, and in this performance, they come together as if they had been playing as a group for years. On drums is Schlatko performed by Jacob Becannen. Timing is crucial for any musical group and Becannen provides the timing with surety and skill. Lead Guitar is Kryzhtoff, performed by Zach Zeller and his talent is evident. Jacek is Jeff Cooper on Bass and Richard York is Skszp on Piano and Guitar. York is the Musical Director for this production and he does an excellent job with this band, a band that stands alone musically.
Then there is the character of Yitzhak, backup singer and ‘husband’ of Hedwig. Renee Anderson plays this part sensitively; moreover, she has a set of pipes that astounds the ear. Her solo is smashing and succulent.
Matthew Alvin Brown a member of Actors’ Equity is downright superb. He has a vocal range which allows subtlety as well as distinction. This is evident in his singing. As an actor, his range is equal and his portrayal of Hedwig, and also Tommy Gnosis is wonderful and wild. At the end of the show the applause is deafening and the audience rocks with empathy.
To reiterate: the material is very ‘bad’ and very, very good. Castleberry has met with the requirement to direct a cast worthy of this subject. They do not merely carry off a good show; they carry away an open minded audience to new heights.
To see this travesty of immorality teaching morality through outstanding entertainment call the Civic Center Box office at 405-297-2264 or visit www.OKCTC.org. Come see the show this next weekend, September 7th and 8th and enjoy.