Timing right for return of rock musical ‘Hedwig’ to Las Vegas stage

For someone who’s been an out-there outcast from the start, Hedwig’s flirting dangerously with the mainstream.

After all, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” — the rock musical that showcases the gender-bending, “internationally ignored song stylist” of the title — is a Tony-winning Broadway smash.

It captured top awards for, among other things, best musical revival and best actor Neil Patrick Harris. (Taye Diggs is now stepping out on Broadway in Hedwig’s high heels.) And “Hedwig’s” national tour kicks off in October in — where else? — San Francisco.

Factor in transgender Caitlyn Jenner’s current reality-TV blitz and the time couldn’t be more prime for “Hedwig’s” return to the Las Vegas stage; the show opens a 13-performance run Thursday, launching the Onyx Theatre’s 10th season.

“The theater gods were smiling upon us when we received the phone call granting us the rights to ‘Hedwig,’ ” says director Troy Heard, the Onyx’s producing director. “I just love the story so much.”

Unlike the 2001 movie adaptation — which starred writer John Cameron Mitchell in the title role — the stage original presents a you-are-here concert with Hedwig (played by Cory Benway), his on- and off-stage partner Yitzhak (Jamie Riviere) and Hedwig’s rock band.

Said band is dubbed the Angry Inch in “honor” of the botched sex-change operation that left Hedwig (born Hansel) with an anatomical remnant of her former self.

The show follows Hedwig’s journey from East Germany to America, from painful past to glam-punk (but still painful) present.

And the musical’s songs (written by Stephen Trask), through which Hedwig tells her tale, make the show a quintessential rock musical.

“If anything could ever be called a rock musical,” Heard says, “this is it.”

The Onyx production makes room for some local and topical references, he notes, from “a Caitlyn Jenner joke” to Hedwig’s shout-out to her attorney, Las Vegas’ own “heavy hitter,” Glen Lerner.

But the show’s focus remains the same as has been since “Hedwig” made its Off-Broadway bow in 1998.

The title character’s odyssey may be painful — especially after Hedwig’s ex-flame, rock icon Tommy Gnosis, steals her songs. But there’s no mistaking Hedwig’s grit and determination as she opens her act with this defiant musical challenge: “Try to tear me down.”

Preparing for a recent rehearsal, Onyx’s Hedwig sits patiently backstage as makeup artist Alda Tomasic applies bright blue eyeshadow to Benway’s face — above the three pairs of false eyelashes already in place.

“I’m trying to make him look perfect,” Tomasic explains, “but not quite so perfect.”

Benway’s been down this particular path before, having played Hedwig in a 2010 Insurgo Theatre production, where he “transform(ed) ‘Hedwig’ into a love story between performer and audience,” to quote the review by the late Review-Journal theater critic, Anthony Del Valle.

“I’m pleased and relieved the lines have come back to me, but it’s not the same Hedwig” this time, Benway says, likening the process to putting on “old shoes I’ve outgrown — shoes that are no longer comfortable.”

With five years between Hedwigs, “even though the words are the same, there’s new meaning,” the actor says. “I’m a little older — maybe not wiser. A little more tired. And I embrace that.”

Little wonder, since perseverance in the face of the world’s seeming indifference (amid personal pain) emerges as a “Hedwig” hallmark.

On the Onyx stage, in the middle of a run-though, Benway hikes up Hedwig’s decorated denim skirt (that keeps slipping down), adjusts his net stockings and struggles with his microphone.

“It’s one button,” Benway says, briefly breaking character — or maybe not. “How do I get it wrong?”

A moment later, Benway’s back as Hedwig, who later admits to the audience, “I laugh, because I’ll cry if I don’t.”

And that, for all the show’s raucous rock music and stinging wit, remains the heart of “Hedwig,” Heard says.

“Everybody’s been in love, everybody’s had their heart broken,” he says, summarizing his simple concept for the production: “To tell the story of Hedwig.”

For more stories from Carol Cling go to bestoflasvegas.com. Contact her at ccling@reviewjournal.com and follow @CarolSCling on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Five must-see bands at Psycho Las Vegas 2018
Five must-see bands at Psycho Las Vegas 2018
Zuma's Ice Cube Carving Is Satisfying To Watch
Zuma's Ice Cube Carving Is Satisfying To Watch (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Therapy In Downtown Las Vegas Serves Cast Iron S'mores
Therapy In Downtown Las Vegas Serves Cast Iron S'mores. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Brunch Spot The Stove Makes Unicorn Hot Chocolate And Bananas Foster Pancakes
New Brunch Spot The Stove Makes Unicorn Hot Chocolate And Bananas Foster Pancakes. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Octopus On The Las Vegas Strip Predicted The Winner Of The World Cup
The Octopus On The Las Vegas Strip Predicted The Winner Of The World Cup. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-journal)
TLC by the Numbers
Watch Ruthless! at Las Vegas Little Theatre
The musical Ruthless! will be playing at Las Vegas Little Theatre from July 13-29. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
How to feel like a kid again in Las Vegas
How to feel like a kid again in Las Vegas
People Lined Up For Over 5 Hours For Build-a-bear's "Pay Your Age" Promotion At Galleria Mall
People Lined Up For Over 5 Hours For Build-a-bear's "Pay Your Age" Promotion At Galleria Mall. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cadaver art and sword swallowing at The Dark Arts Market
Curator Erin Emrie talks about her inspiration for The Dark Arts Market at Cornish Pasty Co. in Las Vegas Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Over 40,000 People Attend The 4th Of July Parade In Summerlin In Las Vegas
Over 40,000 People Attend The 4th Of July Parade In Summerlin In Las Vegas. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What to expect at Station Casinos' Fourth of July celebration
Station Casinos' is hosting its annual 4th of July celebration with Fireworks by Grucci. Fireworks scheduled to go off on Wednesday, July 4 around 9 p.m. at Green Valley Ranch Resort, Red Rock Resort, Fiesta Rancho and Texas Station. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Pawn Stars' Richard Harrison honored at memorial service
A memorial service was conducted for Richard "Old Man" Harrison at Palm Mortuary in Las Vegas on Sunday, July 1, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Tourists and locals enjoy Independence Day fireworks at Caesars Palace
Hundreds of tourists and locals gaze at the Independence Day fireworks show at Caesars Palace on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
5 must-see bands at Warped Tour 2018
Five must-see bands at Warped Tour 2018
This Banana Split In Las Vegas Is Made With Fire And Liquid Nitrogen Right At Your Table.
This Banana Split In Las Vegas Is Made With Fire And Liquid Nitrogen Right At Your Table. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pixar Pier At Disneyland Is Open With New Food And A New Roller Coaster
Pixar Pier At Disneyland Is Open With New Food And A New Roller Coaster (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Here's What It's Like To Ride The New Incredicoaster At Disneyland
Here's What It's Like To Ride The New Incredicoaster At Disneyland (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
"Pawn Stars" fans visit Richard Harrison's memorial at Gold & Silver Pawn
"Pawn Stars" fans from around the world visit the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas following the passing of Richard "Old Man" Harrison on Monday, June 25, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Get a sneak peek at Palace Station's newest renovations
Station Casinos spokesperson Lori Nelson gives a first look at what Palace Station's $192 million renovation will bring. Some areas will begin opening to the public next week according to Nelson. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
You Can Only Get The 11-pound 8-person Burger In Las Vegas
You Can Only Get The 11-pound 8-person Burger In Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Paul McCartney is worth over $1 billion
Sir Paul McCartney is one of the most celebrated and accomplished musicians in history. He just turned 76 on June 18. McCartney grew to international fame with the Beatles and went on to become a wildly successful solo musician. Paul McCartney’s net worth is estimated at $1.2 billion, according to Celebrity Net Worth. In 2017, McCartney landed the No. 13 spot on Forbes’ list of the world’s highest-paid musicians, earning $54 million for the year. On Thursday, June 20, McCartney will release a double A-side single featuring two new songs, "I Don't Know" and "Come On to Me." McCartney has yet to announce a title of his new album or when it will be released. Th album is expected to be released before he headlines the Austin City Limits Music fest in October.
Bellagio's New Conservatory Brings Italian Summer To Las Vegas
Bellagio's New Conservatory Brings Italian Summer To Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kari Curletto of Las Vegas put over 500 hours into making her toilet paper wedding dress. (Courtesy Kari Curletto)
Kari Curletto of Las Vegas put over 500 hours into making her toilet paper wedding dress. (Courtesy Kari Curletto)
The Real Crepe In Las Vegas Serves Authentic Crepes In The Style Of Brittany, France
The Real Crepe In Las Vegas Serves Authentic Crepes In The Style Of Brittany, France. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-journal)
New Marilyn Musical Brings Screen Icons Life To Strip
Paris Las Vegas hosts musical bio featuring new, old tunes. (Carol Cling Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas' hottest concerts of the summer
Vegas' hottest concerts of the summer
We Taste-tested The Best Doughnut Shops In Las Vegas
We Taste-tested The Best Doughnut Shops In Las Vegas. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
5 must-see bands at Punk Rock Bowling 2018
5 must-see bands at Punk Rock Bowling 2018
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
ad-infeed_1
ads_infeed_2
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like