Off the heels of a successful Broadway run, John Cameron Mitchell’s Tony Award-winning “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” has made its way to the Hollywood Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles, where it had its opening night last Wednesday and runs through Nov. 27.
Starring “Glee’s” Darren Criss as the title character, the cult musical in the style of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” follows the story of Hedwig, a transgendered aspiring rock star who underwent a botched sex change operation and has been in the shadows of another performer and ex-flame, Tommy Gnosis, who stole her songs. The 180-minute production is as dazzling as it is funny, with Criss in huge, blonde wigs, sparkly outfits and six-inch heels.
Throughout the performance, which is staged more as a comedy show or concert with a live band that breaks the fourth wall rather than a typical play, Criss as Hedwig tells jokes that are sexual and cater to the Los Angeles audience. Tommy Gnosis, for example, is supposedly playing at the Hollywood Bowl, which is located not far from the Pantages. And Hedwig cracks jokes that she is performing in the same venue, the Pantages, that once housed the Academy Awards.
Criss as Hedwig is a surprising delight. While one might think of Criss only as his charming “Glee” character Blaine Anderson, the 29-year-old man plays Hedwig to a T with continuous sexual innuendo. As Criss, who is straight, sings songs as Hedwig about losing his penis, love and career, he prances around the stage, jumps around and dances in tall heels. (Rightfully so, he shows off muscular legs that are swoon-worthy.) He also travels off the stage and into the crowd during numbers like “Sugar Daddy.” At the opening night performance, he licked the face of a man who was sitting in the front row.
Parents, it’s probably best not to bring your young kids who were fans of “Glee” and Criss’ boyish charm on the show. Criss, who has been known for his acting and singing skills, also shows off another talent in “Hedwig.” He can talk in multiple accents. One almost forgets they are watching Criss on stage, who shows off a German accent for most of the show and portrays the voices of other off-stage characters as well throughout the performance. It isn’t until the end, when he strips down — yes, ladies, his abs are as glorious as you’ve imagined — and shows off his token curly mop on his head that you remember you’re watching Criss.
The supporting cast — there are just about a half-dozen people total on stage throughout the show — is also excellent. Lena Hall as Yitzhak, Hedwig’s husband, steals the show at times with her beautiful vocals during songs like Whitney Houston’s rendition of “I Will Always Love You” and the “Hedwig” original “The Long Grift.” Hall will also play Hedwig in select performances in the show’s run.
Effects also dazzle the production. As Hedwig sings a song, “Origin of Love,” about wanting to find her other half, a screen was pulled down in front of her and had animations projected onto it.
Of course, the writers couldn’t leave it at that, and one was quickly reminded of the raunchy play they came to see.
“Oh, I do love a good scrim job,” Hedwig says.
“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” also succeeds because of its simplicity. Without the aide of a lavish set and a huge cast, the play is gripping all on its own. Overall, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is a delightful, funny and sexy show that might shock some season ticket holders just holding out hope to snag tickets to “Hamilton.” Clever and entertaining, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is a risqué and brutally honest production not intended for minors.
The show runs through Nov. 27 at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre, located at 6233 Hollywood Blvd. in Los Angeles.