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Theater review: Plan-B Theatre Company’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch at Park City’s Egyptian Theatre

by on June 9, 2012

John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch is such a transcendent piece of rock and roll theater that it must be daunting for anyone to tackle.

You have to find a killer band to deliver the backbone of the show–a set of great songs that veer from straightahead rock to power ballads to epic, tempo-shifting, long narratives. You have to find a perfect person to play Yitzhak, Hedwig’s vocal sparring partner and a major presence in the story. And, of course, you have to find someone capable of inhabiting Hedwig, an East German-born transsexual glamorpuss with serious rock and roll chops and an amazing story to tell.

Director Jerry Rapier thankfully has a near-perfect Hedwig in Aaron Swenson, the actor who played the role to much acclaim during Plan-B’s previous productions of the show in 2003 and 2005. In the new production appearing at Park City’s Egyptian Theatre, Swenson is awesome, performing the role with the perfect mix of humor and emotion, a rock-solid German accent and a powerhouse voice that delivers songs like “Tear Me Down” and “Origin of Love” so well that you’ll be scrambling to buy the soundtrack after you see the show.

Swenson has to do a lot of heavy lifting through Hedwig and the Angry Inch, from leading the excellent rock band on stage (Camden Chamberlain and Van Christensen, Adam Overacker and Dave Evanoff) to delivering what is virtually a 90-minute monologue as he tells Hedwig’s story. At the production I saw, Swenson also had to nimbly react to some drunken audience members shouting at him during the show, and he wrapped in some local humor to his story as well, taking good-natured jabs at the Egyptian Theatre’s Randy Barton and his long-winded introduction of the show, as well as some of the room’s funky decor.

Swenson’s excellent performance was matched by Latoya Rhodes in the role of Yitzhak. Rhodes was able to powerfully convey her character’s emotions without using words, via facial expressions and physical movements around the stage. The complexity of the Hedwig/Yitzhak relationship came through loud and clear via Swenson and Rhodes’ chemistry–and when Rhodes let loose on her vocals, it became obvious she is an actress to keep tabs on just for the chance to hear her sing again.

Latoya Rhodes as Yitzhak (left) and Aaron Swenson as Hedwig in Plan-B Theatre Company’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch at Park City’s Egyptian Theatre, running through June 17.

If you’ve never seen Hedwig and the Angry Inch (or if you’ve only seen the thrilling film version), take the opportunity when you can. You’ll laugh throughout at the witty one-liners Hedwig throws in throughout her story, you’ll find yourself rocking out to an excellent batch of tunes, and you’ll be touched by Hedwig’s love stories, and jealousy of her former protege Tommy Gnossis. It’s a brilliant night of theater and an awesome concert rolled into one 90-minute burst, and it’s hard to imagine a more winning night out.

Plan-B Theatre Company’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch runs through June 17 at Park City’s Egyptian Theatre. Check out the Plan-B website for tickets and showtimes.

(all photos by Rick Pollock)

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