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Hedwig and the Angry Inch, playing to packed houses at the Shambhala Music Hall

By Contributor
February 26th, 2015

by Eli Geddis

Walk into the Shambhala Music Hall at the Selkirk College Tenth Street Campus on an average weekend night this February and you’re likely to encounter an entirely different world.

Instrument-slinging Euro punks play fiercely in the shadow of a crumbling Berlin Wall, a rock diva in gypsy denim spits water out over a crowd, shock-blonde wigs are traded, upgraded, and discarded.

It’s the world of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, a collaboration between Black Productions and the Selkirk College Contemporary Music and Technology Program.

The play, a gender-warping rock musical about an East German transgendered singer in a struggling fictional rock band, originally written by John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask, is given the Nelson treatment.

Directed by Pat Henman and starring Nelson’s cultural ambassador Bessie Wapp as the play’s titular character, it’s a dramatic, funny, touching, and fiercely beautiful production by two of Nelson’s most talented women, both at the tops of their game.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch spans the length of a mock set list played during an ill-attended night on another fruitless tour for the struggling band.

They play in the shadow of a mega rock concert taking place across the street, and throughout the 95-minute running time, Hedwig uses the space to both play her music, ruminate on how she came to be there, and curse the lead singer of the band next door, Tommy Gnosis.

Wapp also provides the voice and face of Tommy Gnosis (as shown through projected photos and a few funny sound clips), a fact that can be a little confusing if you’re not aware of it.

Wapp is a tour de force as Hedwig, writhing and gyrating, inhabiting completely the body of a person damaged by a botched sex-change operation, finding salvation and wholeness through song. It says something about the play that a role traditionally played by a man (most notably John Cameron Mitchell, Neil Patrick Harris, and Michael C. Hall) is just as effective, if not more-so, when Wapp tackles it.

In Hedwig, gender is fluid, and Henman and Wapp embrace this whole-heartedly.

Best moments: The tense and complicated interplay between Wapp and her husband Yitzhak (played pitch-perfect by a very stubbly Sydney Black)

 Best songs: The Origin of Love and Sugar Daddy.


Categories: Arts and Culture

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