REVIEW: Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Expect the unexpected if you go to see Ensemble Theatre’s HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH.

Touted as the show that “saved ETC” during the riots in Over-the-Rhine 17 years ago, this revival feels like a celebration.  A lot has happened in those years, not just at Ensemble Theatre. And not just in Over-the-Rhine.  Gender equality, transgender awareness and acceptance – while not anywhere close to where most of us would like to see these social issues – are certainly more progressive than they were in the early 21st century.

I’d never seen the show and only knew that it featured a tall, stunning actor dressed in drag accompanied by a live band singing a rock score.  What I didn’t know was that it was so hilarious.  And what I also didn’t know was that Todd Almond is an amazing performer.  I know of Todd’s work as a playwright, mostly; he’s rock-your-face-off bonafide superstar performer, though, and I’m still marveling at the command he has of the stage and the audience.

Expect the unexpected.  I would not leave your phone on. I wouldn’t read the program if seated close to the stage.  I wouldn’t do anything to call attention to yourself because Hedwig is mighty scary. She’ll get ya . . . but she’ll also steal your heart.  The vulnerability of the character – and Almond’s fierce portrayal – is heartbreaking.

There are so many nice surprises in the script and I won’t spoil them here.  But pay attention.  Take those ear plugs out, too.  You really don’t need them.  The volume levels, while louder than most musicals, aren’t over the top and Hedwig is quite soft-spoken in between numbers.  The contrast is striking and delicious.

Director D. Lynn Meyers leads a creative team that supports the lead actor with production elements so solid you might not notice.  Wigs and makeup by Raven D. Payne are a highlight as is the set and lighting by Brian c. Mehring.  a. Beth Harris (“Yitzak”) has a stellar voice of her own and she musically directs a tight band full of proficient musicians.  There’s so much to love here.

But the best part of HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH? Watching the grey-haired crowd around me rock out with a gender-queer definitely-not-from-Cincinnati superstar.  Go – and go again.  It’s just wonderful.

HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH runs through July 1st at Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati in Over-the-Rhine.  Tickets are going fast so don’t delay. Click here for more information.