Oh how I love Michael C. Hall. I have since the very first time I laid eyes on him on HBO’s hit Six Feet Under. His character on that show was meek and mild mannered David Fisher a role he played from 2001 until 2005. This character struggled to live his life as a gay man in a dysfunctional family running their funeral home in their residence. The multi-level emotional depth Hall was able to convey was evident from the very first show. From there I wouldn’t see him again on TV until this year but he never really left my mind.
I had heard of course about Dexter for so many years and as my friends would watch it season after season and I would avoid listening to specifics because I knew one day I would catch up. At the beginning of the series in 2006 (it was on until 2013), I didn’t have Showtime so I couldn’t watch it. I eventually got it around season 6 but I knew I had to start from the beginning. Thanks to the good folks at Showtime and their On Demand channel I was able to binge watch all eight seasons within a one-month period. If I didn’t have to eat, sleep, or work I would have had it all done in a week. Lord knows the sleepless nights I had because I literally HAD to see what happened next. The hour-long crime drama had me wincing with anxiety just to see where the story was going. I never guessed a plot line ahead of time. The writing, directing, and the acting all conspired to produce what I consider to be a show to end all shows. This collective performance is one of the greatest cultural events of our time.
Thus it was this deeper admiration that landed me in the hot seat last Saturday night. I am talking about Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway. Or as my good friend Hedwig would say East of Broadway a.k.a. E Broad.
Let’s just say that the first few moments of the play I had no idea where this story was headed. I had instantly thought that this was my first time attending a show where I had no idea of the plot and that this would be a decision I would regret. I am proud to say that once I settled in I would learn to appreciate it and even grow to adore it. Now the more I think about the more I love it and can’t believe I ever questioned seeing it. Michael C. Hall was the reason I walked into the theater and he would be the reason I was rushing out of it.
The last time I was sitting in this theater I was seeing another show that remains very close to my heart, End of the Rainbow staring the amazingly talented Traci Bennett as Judy Garland (http://thequeenoff-ckingeverything.blogspot.com/2012/04/for-giant-pot-of-gold-at-end-of-rainbow.html). The time before that was seeing Kathy Griffin (http://thequeenoff-ckingeverything.blogspot.com/2011/03/for-those-who-like-life-on-d-list.html).
So you can imagine my surprise and delight when in the very first few minutes Hedwig licks the stage and says “hmm tastes like Kathy Griffin.” I am still laughing about that today. I am sure there were plenty of people who didn’t get it but I love that it was a special joke between Hedwig and I.
Those first few moments were also educational. For instance I learned that David Belasco built this magnificent theater in 1907. Breaking the third wall with information I would like to know and didn’t have to look up boy were we on the right path.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is currently a revival. It originally took the stage Off Broadway at the Jane Street Theater in February 1998 and closed in February 2000. The playwright is John Cameron Mitchell and he also starred in the film version by the same name. it is based off of Mitchell’s experience of growing up an Army brat with a nanny who is lets say interesting.
The story centers on Hedwig who was born Hansel in East Berlin. She is on a quest to find her soul mate and one true love. When she meets a man named Luther and he agrees to marry her and bring her to America. Hansel has a sex change to become Hedwig so that the two can be married. At the time full examinations were given prior to marriage so the surgery is necessary. Hedwig’s mother gives her a passport and the money to assist in this journey. However the surgery is botched and Hedwig is left with an “angry inch”, hence the name of her band. After a year of marriage Hedwig is stranded in a trailer park in Kansas. It is there where she finds her muse and fellow musician who she names Tommy Gnosis. The entire show consists of Hedwig telling her story and explaining how she got here.
The music and the interactions are very powerful. As we dive into the thick of it the music, which at times felt too loud, now seems appropriate. There are softer ballads and moments where Michael C. Hall’s vulnerability as this character is pouring out like a faucet. There are moments of sheer sadness, laughter, amusement, shock, and awe. The roughly ninety minute show flies by despite the lack of an intermission.
Hall’s transformation into this strong but broken creature it utterly out of this world. Besides the obvious costume and wardrobe changes, his physique is actually transformed. Each movement, no matter how small, is so well thought out and acted out. It is flawless. No Beyonce he didn’t wake up like this but if I didn’t know better I might have sworn he did.
Last Saturday (the day I was at this theater), November 8, was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the falling of the Berlin Wall. It is so fitting that Hedwig’s story takes place on that day in 1989. It went up on August 13, 1961 with the sole purpose of blocking migration and travel West Germany from the East in a post World War II world. Essentially it was a barrier from countryman with countryman and the outside world. Today there is a memorial to the one hundred and thirty-eight people who died trying to cross the wall.
At the first applause I was up and out much to the dismay of the gentleman next to me. But if you snooze you loose and that is so not my style. I achieved my goal and being one of the very first at the barricade to wait in line to meet the actors. Truthfully you know the one that was on my mind. After that anyone is gravy.
Michael came out fairly quickly and with a huge smile on his face. He was trying not to speak to conserve his voice (with so much speaking and singing I don’t even know how he has one) but still polite. He went back and forth signing every playbill and sign in his site. He went as far back into the crowd as his arms would reach. He was patient and stood so people could take photos. He was as warm and lovely as you dream he would be. He is also just as attractive. His talent overwhelms me and to think I could have missed this show or seeing him in it disturbs me. I felt a connection to the character he brought to life and can’t imagine one without the other. I am a bigger fan now than ever and thrilled I took the time to venture into Hedwig’s life.
Tony award winner Lena Hall played Hedwig’s husband Yitzhak. Sadly I missed her because Michael C. Hall was about to approach me and I never saw her on my other side. She was absolutely fantastic and well deserving of that Tony. I wish I had met her but privileged to have seen her perform.
Michael C. Hall first landed on Broadway in 1999 portraying the Emcee in Cabaret. This is the show I will be revisiting next, ironically enough.
Like JayZ says, on to the next one.
For Hedwig and the Angry Inch:
For the Berlin Wall: