Aisle Say New York
July 15, 1998
by Adasha Greenwood
There are roles that are indelibly associated with the performers who first bring them to public notice. Producers agonize over replacing a star when the star turn has to be turned over to a replacement. One would assume this would be even more of a problem when the role was created for, as well as by, the original performer. "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" at the Jane Street Theatre (so far West Village as to be almost in New Jersey) may have been a showcase for its co-creator/star John Cameron Mitchell, but the happy news is that the rock concert/musical has Michael Cerveris filling every inch of Hedwig's leather with charisma and aplomb.
Cerveris, currently taking his own break from Broadway's "Titanic", is best known for originating his own title character in the Broadway "Tommy", so we knew he could sing and dance. But both the Big T musicals are extravaganzas; set, lights and special effects take precedence over individual personalities, and the cast is only another tool in the director's kit. Not to take anything away from "Hedwig"'s sets, lights and special effects -- they're every bit as creative and exciting, no doubt on a much lower budget -- but the smaller scale of "Hedwig", and the role's greater complexity and range, allows Cerveris to show wit, flexibility and impeccable timing, along with the rock star talents already established.
His voice moves with ease from Hedwig to the other characters in her life, and his body seems to take on a slimmer wiriness, almost imploding as he portrays Hedwig's own Tommy (a focal character in her life). He may still look more solidly masculine than Mitchell, but his eyes look great in glitter. And in the intimacy of the Jane Street Theatre, you can actually see what's going on in those eyes. A lot.
photo by Amazing Journey
Those of you who read my colleague's review know that this show may not be for everyone. The Angry Inch is, after all, a rock band (aside from its metaphoric meaning), played by a rock band in finest black lipstick and piercings (Cheater--consisting of Scott Bilbrey, David McKinley, Chris Weilding, and Hedwig's talented songwriter, Stephen Trask), so those of you who cringe at loud noises, be ye warned. For those of you willing to take your loud noises when presented with exhilaration and skill, you will find "Hedwig" much more than a drag show. A rock concert, a stand-up act, a philosophical inquiry into sexual confusion/human fusion, under Peter Askin's fine direction, it seques deftly from low humor to surprising drama.
Mention should be made of the fine design team: James Youmans for the sets and captivating projections, Fabio Toblini for perfect costumes and Mike Potter for hair and that sensational glitter, and Kevin Adams for the stunning lighting. Miriam Shore is a wonderfully passive-aggressive straight man (so to speak), and she's got a great high singing range, for a man. And front and center is Mr. Cerveris, whose own fluid voice is a pleasure to listen to, whether singing or reminiscing on Hedwig's melodramatic past. The producers may first have thought of this star replacement as an excuse for a few extra giggles (Hedwig is fixated on her own Tommy, and the program notes that the Hotel Riverview, home of the Jane Street Theatre, was once a lodging house for the surviving crew of the Titanic), but they couldn't have made a finer choice. And how generous of John Cameron Mitchell to allow Cerveris to shine in his baby.
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