Saturday, March 29, 2014

Hedwig and the Angry Inch


The Endless Suburb album is still being mixed in the studio with the darling boys from P-Town giving the backup vocals some extra youthful pizzazz. The initial tracks I've heard should blow Britney and Christina right off of the charts, particularly my ode to the t-shirt and jeans look which begins: Forget your troubles, come on get GAPpy.... I've suggested an initial run of five million copies of the CD so we can ship multi-platinum and Madame Rose is hard at work on a spectacular launch party.

I'm having some difficulties with my new kabuki musical version of The Last Seduction in terms of casting. I need two leading men as famous and talented as myself. Initially, Joseph approached Van Johnson and Howard Keel but I'm a little leery as neither one of them has kept their youthful looks. I've suggested Harrison Ford and Arnold Schwarzenegger for the box office appeal but the vocal and dance coaches despair at making their pas de deux work properly. We may have to keep looking. In the meantime, I have taken out a small full page ad in Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter...

The Last Seduction
A Kabuki Musical
With Vicki Lester

to get Hollywood ready for the absolutely fabulous haiku Barry Manilow is going to create. The show should be ready to move into the Pantages sometime after Christmas.

Musicals being on my mind, I did get out to see a new one, Hedwig and the Angry Inch with John Cameron Mitchell based on his celebrated off-Broadway play of several seasons back. At the time, I was a bit miffed as the concept was clearly stolen from my Vicki and the Angry Itch series of commercials for Monistat-7 but my lawyers got me a nice out of court settlement that paid for Norman's colonics bill. This is likely to be the only rock musical about an east German transsexual so those with interests in such things should make plans to see it now.

The title character, played by Mitchell (who also directed the film and wrote the script based on his play), was born to an east German woman and an American GI in Berlin at the time of the building of the Berlin wall. Born as a boy known as Hansel, as he matures, it becomes clear that he's more female than male and eventually an American soldier falls for him. So they may be married, Hansel undergoes a botched sex change operation and emerges as Hedwig - the angry inch being what's left of his original genitalia. After marriage, and later abandonment in a trailer park in Junction City, Kansas, Hedwig takes solace in music, ending up as an entertainer at Bilgewater's restaurants - sort of a Red Lobster with a shipwreck theme. The songs of her act (with her back-up band 'The Angry Inch') explore how she came to be, the nature of gender and sexuality, the artificial dividing lines people place between each other (with the Berlin wall serving as a major concrete metaphor) as she pursues her dreams.

The film was obviously made on a budget smaller than that for John Travolta's trailer but director Mitchell uses his limited resources wisely. Many of the musical numbers are amplified through modern animation techniques and he more than makes up for skimpy sets in inventive camera moves and tableaux. He's able to create movie magic out of a double wide, scarves, Gummy bears, and a plethora of artificial hair.

Mitchell's Hedwig is a movie rarity - a truly original character who remains true to herself throughout the film and who isn't co-opted to deliver messages or to fit some Hollywood brand of storytelling. This leads to the film's one true weakness, the last fifteen or twenty minutes are confused in their story telling and in their staging as various identities are swapped and we get a catharsis which hasn't been properly built up. The rest of the cast are unknowns (with the exception of Broadway and Second City comedienne Andrea Martin as Hedwig's manager - in a role clearly modeled on my own darling Joseph) but all are able to hold the screen with Mitchell's powerhouse intensity, especially Miriam Shor in another somewhat gender confused role.

The music, while lacking a really good tap number, is energetic, always lively, and well sung. The numbers are well staged and the film comes alive with a spark whenever the soundtrack roars in with the drums and guitars. Musician Stephen Trask is responsible for music and lyrics and provides the singing voice for Hedwig's nemesis, rock star Tommy Gnosis (Michael Pitt).

The somewhat outré subject matter will not be for everyone but for those with an interest in cutting edge musical theater ideas shouldn't miss this one.

Table stomping. Candy wearing. Oven playing. Farrah Fawcett wig sing along. Naked John Cameron Mitchell. Dining Hassidim. Laundromat singing. Ugly publicist. Foam hair.

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