"My sex-change operation got botched
My guardian angel fell asleep on the watch
Now all I got is a Barbie Doll-crotch
I got an angry inch"
WASHINGTON -- Eight seconds after Rick Hammerly entered the theater as transsexual rocker Hedwig, I suddenly found his large hand thrust in front of my face. What's going on, I thought. Does he want me to kiss it? Is this part of the show? I tried to shake it instead, but to no avail. So, I gave it a quick peck. Then, the "internationally ignored song stylist" gave me the finger, which was greeted with audience laughter and applause. Apparently, they knew what was coming.
Currently enjoying sell-out success with Sondheim's "Follies," Eric Schaeffer's Signature Theater has revived last season's rock musical "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" at Washington, DC's Warehouse Theatre. Written by Stephen Trask and John Cameron Mitchell, the show has won acclaim from critics and audiences since its 1998 off-Broadway creation. Originally East German Hansel, botched "cut and paste" surgery leaves transsexual Hedwig with an "angry inch" of flesh. James Kronzer's set consists of a platform for Hedwig and his five-piece band, a pole for sexual diversion, and some projected images.
More than just a one-man show, Hedwig regularly interacts with lover Lynn Filusch as Yitzak (a German and a Jew, as Hammerly notes), performs numerous vocal impressions in a deep voice, and transforms into nemesis Tommy Gnosis who gained mass fame by stealing his songs. Stomping violently across the stage, Hammerly delivers explosive songs like "Angry Inch" and "Wicked Little Town." He also has fun in the audience-participation number "Wig in a Box" in which he describes how a touch of makeup transforms him into "Miss Midwest Midnight Checkout Queen." Anne Kennedy has recreated Fabio Toblini's original Hedwig wardrobe of a large blonde wig and multi-colored cape with the inscription "Yankee go home -- with me."
Hammerly's Hedwig is reminiscent of other transvestite comedians such as Dame Edna and Gary Beach's Roger De Bris. He is less naturally female than John Cameron Mitchell, but a bit more humorous and over-the-top. With a touch of Sweeney Todd-like aggression, performer Rick Hammerly and director Eric Schaeffer keep Hedwig one of the most indestructible characters in musical theatre. You can't tear him down.