If you forced me at gunpoint to pick my life’s current theme, I’d probably knock you out, take the gun, and demand to see your boss (I may even throw in a cool one-liner like “I ain’t got time to bleed” or some such thing, just to drive home my badassery.)
But if you had the foresight to roofie my drink ahead of time, I’d confidently say: ADAPTATION.
For new readers, let’s recap, shall we? New home. New job. Single… All within a 2 week period. Something like Miley Cyrus came in like a wrecking ball and left me to pick up all the broken pieces. It hasn’t been easy, but all things considered, my life’s been pretty great.
About two weeks ago, I embarked on an adventure to NYC with my main sistah-bros Lillian, Paige, and Casey. Our reason? To catch the Broadway reboot of Hedwig And The Angry Inch, starring Neil Patrick effin’ Harris! (You may have heard of it: it was nominated for some major theater award no one’s ever heard of.)
And involves NPH in drag. Need I say more?
(Photo by Joan Marcus)
Quick background: Hedwig started as an off-Broadway musical in 1998, became a smash cult film in 2001, and is now the Broadway show your mom’s probably heard about, courtesy of Barney from How I Met Your Mother.
The play is framed as a rock concert. Throughout the band’s “set”, Hedwig tells the story of her former lover that stole her songs and made it big as Tommy Gnosis. (Within the play’s story, Tommy also happens to be playing a much larger show right next door.)
But back to my theme: ADAPTATION. Fitting, since that’s the precise quality that made this show so incredible from the beginning. In 1998, writer/director/star John Cameron Mitchell and songwriter Stephen Trask sought out concert venues in order to legitimize The Angry Inch as a band. Learning the names and histories of each venue and integrating that into the material teased audience expectation even more. Many inevitably scratched their heads asking, “How much of this is staged?”
In the same way that Hedwig, the character, identified as both male and female, Mitchell’s story fell somewhere between two worlds. Part rock show, part stage play.
So In 2014, director Michael Mayer faced the challenge of maintaining Hedwig’s spirit while introducing it to a more mainstream audience. Leaving purists to ask: how do you gracefully transition from fringe theater “rock show” to BIG Broadway musical? How do you make something feel unpredictable when so many people are watching?
When we arrived, my sister noticed a Playbill for Hurt Locker: The Musical on the floor by her seat. Hmph. Odd. How had I never heard of this? When we looked up, we saw broken-debris set pieces, demolished remnants of brick walls, and a beat-up car centerstage. Then NPH came out in all his glamorous genderfuck glory (courtesy of stylist Arianne Phillips), performed the opening number (“Tear Me Down”), and explained that Hurt Locker: The Musical had been cancelled on its opening night…
But not really. That show was as farcical as Hedwig’s cleavage.
There was a method to that moment of madness: the band never stopped interacting with the “discarded” set. At one point, NPH made a fall you’d swear was unstaged, but beneath his feet was sheet music from the “defunct” fake musical. (The piece turned into a beautiful solo number for Hedwig’s wife Yitzhak, played by the magnetic Lena Hall).
Hedwig is a show that knows its space and audience, and adheres to both. There was even mention of David Belasco, the former owner who allegedly haunts the venue to this day. His possible presence resulted in some entertaining (seemingly off-the-cuff) banter with an audience member (who Paige and I have since dubbed Hottie McHotpants). Seriously, though: Foxy Daddy defined.
The trip’s food highlight was a nifty pizza joint called Carve, which was just minutes from our venue. It was affordable (by Broadway dining standards), delicious, and conveniently open 24 hours. We sort of cheated on this one – Paige had been there just a few months ago when she and her better half saw Mike Nichols’ Betrayal (starring Rachel Weisz and, more importantly, Daniel Craig… Mmmmm… Daniel Craig). We knew it’d be a hit.
The remainder of the trip was dedicated to walks in Central Park, late night fro-yo adventures, bonding, and purchasing Fat Lady street art.
There were downsides to the trip, too. The rain dampened our Empire State plans, the traffic was horrendous, and food and drink was astronomically expensive. But none of that mattered much. For every snag, there was a step back, a new plan, and two steps forward. In a moment of crisis, we’d respond with the ingenuity of NPH, stomping in high heels, groin to the collective face of an unsuspecting audience.
It all worked out because I was with people who reminded me that the world doesn’t need to fall apart when things don’t go as planned. If anything, these fiascos make for a much better show.
Till next week, my lovelies!
You know the “follow the bouncing ball” sing-a-long trope? Have you ever wondered how to make that into something filthy?