By Mike Logothetis
Photos Joe del Tufo
City Theater Company (CTC) roars back this month with a staging of the 1998 Obie-winning smash Hedwig and the Angry Inch. After its initial award-filled Off-Broadway run, the show’s Broadway revival won four 2014 Tony Awards including Best Revival of a Musical. David Fricke of Rolling Stone called it, “the first rock musical that truly rocks.” So yes, strap in for a rollicking performance!
With book by John Cameron Mitchell plus music and lyrics by Stephen Trask, the show follows rock singer Hedwig Robinson, whose remarkable life is laid bare in front of the audience.
The plot centers on East German performer Hedwig, whose tragic youth, botched sex-change operation and destroyed marriage fail to torpedo her aspirations. She rises from immeasurable lows to star as the front woman of her own furious and glorious stage show. Addie Montgomery – well-known in Philadelphia’s queer nightlife space as the stage performer Diva Baby – stars as Hedwig. Through a mash-up of comic one-liners and introspective monologues, all fueled by the fierce hard rock tunes of backing band The Angry Inch, Hedwig invites the audience to join her on the journey toward the kind of love that only comes with being true to one’s authentic self.
However, this is not a one-woman show. Hedwig’s current life partner Yitzahk (Mackenzie Brockmeyer) spits some acerbic one-liners and delivers beautifully in “The Long Grift.” The Angry Inch is composed of Ryan Dailey on bass, Joey Lopes on guitar, Bryan Tuk on percussion, and (show director) Joe Trainor on keyboard. Simply put, they wail. You’ll be tapping your foot, nodding your head, or clapping along to the deep musical grooves.
Diva Baby is just that at the onset: a diva. Her character is confident, witty, vivacious, and alluring – you can’t take your eyes off her. She captivated the Opening Night audience from the get-go and led us through Hedwig’s interesting and emotional life journey as the captain of a ship we can’t discern is cruising, moored, or sinking. Her confidence in her choices appears to wane as the show progresses, but – in true heroic form – Hedwig and Yitzahk triumph for remaining true to themselves.
Montgomery/Diva Baby has been part of CTC for many years and is elated to be taking on such an iconic role in a way that unites her onstage acting skills with her offstage lived experience as a trans woman. She stated that when she was approached to play this part, she “thought I would be stupid not to take the opportunity. There was a long time in my life when I thought that transitioning and continuing to pursue work in theater and film were mutually exclusive. So when I started transitioning, without even realizing it, I think that I kind of gave up on my practice of being an actor, and focused more on performing in spaces where my identity was a non-issue.”
She continued, “I am one of the first trans women to play [Hedwig] in a professional production. The fact that I get to do so with City Theater Company, who for years has shown me what’s possible in small theater spaces, who have always been doing the most exciting work in the city of Wilmington, is the honor of my lifetime.”
CTC Artistic Director Kerry Kristine McElrone is excited to present Hedwig and the Angry Inch as part of the 30th anniversary celebration of the company. Said McElrone, “I assisted director Michael Gray on a previous incarnation in Philly, and CTC’s 2003 version grew into something even better and bigger. It’s thrilling to revisit with a new production 20 years later, and anticipate an interpretation that reflects the bigger and better world at large we live in now.”
Founded in 1993, City Theater Company performs contemporary comedies, new works, and classic musicals to critical acclaim inside The Delaware Contemporary. Both institutions are invested in promoting the work of local and emerging artists, advancing opportunity and growth by and for the community, and welcoming all those looking to experience art.
McElrone concluded: “City Theater Company presenting this show onstage at The Delaware Contemporary dovetails perfectly with the curated art on display in the galleries this season. The 16 artists whose work is featured in Escape explore the intersections of outward identity and innermost feelings – just as the titular character in Hedwig takes us on a journey that expresses how a private person escaped into a public persona. Using first-person narrative, raging rock music, and extravagant costuming, we create a form of escapism via a living, breathing work of truth in art at every performance.”
Hedwig and the Angry Inch will run through December 16. Curtain is at 8 o’clock for all remaining shows. The run time is approximately 100 minutes with no intermission. City Theater Company’s home is at The Delaware Contemporary – located at 200 South Madison, Wilmington, Delaware 19801. Tickets ($35-45) can be purchased at the box office or online at City-Theater.org. Special ticket pricing is available for military personnel and students. Please call the box office at (302)220-8285 or email email@example.com for details.