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Tuesday, Sep 02, 2014
Arts & Music

Review: ‘Hedwig’ is not for the straight-laced crowd


Published:   |   Updated: September 11, 2013 at 10:18 AM

The punk gods have descended upon Tampa, and the results are loud, rude and deeply moving. The glam-rock cabaret-style musical “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is a true theatrical experience, provided you are not a buttoned-up type.

Kudos to Spencer Meyers. His key performance as the wigged-out Hedwig is the central reason to catch this hilarious production from Tampa’s Jobsite Theater.

The shock-rock show premiered off-Broadway in 1998. An Obie Award winner, it became the first of hundreds of subsequent productions worldwide. Written by John Cameron Mitchell, it was fueled by Mitchell’s encounter with the German transgender baby sitter hired by his family when he was a kid. The music and lyrics are by Stephen Trask.

Growing up gay in a very religious family, Mitchell had his first turn onstage when he was 11. He portrayed the Virgin Mary in a musical at a Catholic boys’ boarding school.

You can imagine Mitchell’s personal journey from there. In the show, his alter ego emerges in the form of fictional Hedwig (born Hansel on the east side of the Berlin Wall).

“I was born on the other side of the town, ripped in two,” says Hedwig, who sports an inch (the angry inch) of unwanted flesh from a botched sex-change operation.

Hansel-turned-Hedwig escapes to the West, ending up in a Kansas trailer park. Deserted by the G.I. who brought “her” to the United States, Hedwig begins the search for her soul mate, the other half of her he-she soul.

So begins this raucous Pussy Riot of an adventure. It’s a wild ride that could have been a loud, banal exercise on rock history.

Meyers doesn’t let that happen. He is brilliant as Hedwig. His face sparkles with glitter. His blond wig ripples with German- maiden-style tresses. His limbs are covered with torn, black netting. His corset, designed by Jobsite’s Katrina Stevenson, glimmers with sequins.

But it’s Meyers’ voice that you will remember. It ranges from a falsetto to a full-throated howl, never missing a chance to snatch the emotion from every note.

Meyers is a performer able to make you believe every step of Hedwig’s outrageous journey.

It begins in Dr. Espresso’s Seattle-style Coffee Enema Bar, picks up steam as Hedwig gains rock star fame and culminates as she finds her soul mate in the rock star who stole her songs.

David Jenkins is responsible for the excellent direction of the show and Brian Smallheer’s set and lighting bring out the right atmosphere. Meyers is backed up by Amy Gray (who does some gender-twisting of her own), Jonathan Cho on guitars, keys and backup vocals; Jana Doan (bass and backup vocals) and Woody Bond on drums.

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