Center Stage Daily Trojan Vol. 138, No. 62 p9 December 2, 1999 'Hedwig' is a true delight to audiences Star of new rock musical, Michael Cerveris, is outstanding and believable By Chrysta Wilson
VH1's Behind the Music meets VH1's Storytellers. This is the best way to describe "Hedwig and The Angry Inch" - the first rock musical that really rocks out. The format of this musical is rare - a performer using stand-up, singing and a back-up band to share her life, her problems, her fears, her insecurities and her successes, all in 90 minutes of intensity. "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," starring Michael Cerveris, finally does what every other musical categorized as a rock musical (such as "Rent" and "The Who's Tommy") tried to accomplish, but miserably failed at. Not only has Hedwig's story taken center stage on the L.A. arts scene, but it is rapidly becoming a favorite for the audiences that crave strong lyrics, rocking music and effective, meaningful and powerful narratives. With heavy guitar riffs and drum beats provided by Hedwig's band The Angry Inch and Ceveris' voice as an amazing instrument of its own, "Hedwig" keeps both first-time viewers and "Hed Heads"completely entertained."Hedwig" is the culmination of poignant lyrics, emotionally expressive music and acting so impeccable it's easy to forget that Ceveris, a man, is playing a woman as the character Hedwig Schmidt. The combination leaves viewers in the hands and heart of Hedwig. The audience is taken on her 90-minute emotional journey as she tries to find out who she indeed is, prompting the audience to ask themselves the same question. So who is Hedwig Schmidt? This question is one that she continuously asks herself, and this is the question that kicks off the show. The answer is one that she and the audience do not find out until the show's ending. With utter finesse, Ceveris tells us through his dialogue and his vocals that his character Hedwig is searching for completeness. The audience learns through songs such as "Tear me Down" that she was born in communist East Berlin as Hansel, an effeminate boy. Her parents were all but supportive and loving, with a father that sexually abused him and abandoned him soon after and a mother who ignored him and never gave him love or attention. To find solace, young Hansel listened to Armed Forces Radio and learned to sing '70s pop tunes such as those by David Bowie and Toni Tennille. It was there that Hansel/Hedwig developed a love for music.Through narrative and songs like "Sugar Daddy," Luther, a U.S. corporal stationed in Berlin, as well as Hansel's mother, convince him to get a sex change operation so that he and Luther can wed and Hansel can leave Berlin. The operation, however, gets botched and leaves Hansel, now Hedwig, with a one-inch mound of regret. When Hedwig relocates to the exotic America she has dreamed of, she ends up in in a trailer park in Junction City, Kan. A year after she arrives in Junction City, her marriage is in shambles, and she watches the Berlin Wall come down on stolen cable. Murphy's Law strikes twice - what ever can go wrong, will go wrong and at the most inopportune time. To make money, she begins turning tricks - "jobs they call blow" - and baby-sitting on the side, playing Hedwig Schmidt, a woman. By the end of the play, Hedwig finds the closure and completeness that she has searched for her entire life. She comes to the realization that perhaps there is no cosmic love pre-assigned. In the last ballad of the evening, "Midnight Radio," Hedwig expresses her closure in an emotional catharsis where she removes her wigs, a symbol of her constructed identity, to finalize her realization of herself and to finally answer the question "Who is that woman?" "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" is a musical full of intellectual humor, wit and philosophy, all wrapped up in a package of satire, rock 'n' roll and heartfelt honesty that makes the audience identify and fall in love with Hedwig and her story. It is a classically timeless story about a little boy who finds acceptance, love, comfort and himself through music. Call Hedwig what you want, she's heard it all. I think she'd settle, however, for "smashing."