By Bob Evans
Get ready for a fun evening of camp as Egads! Theater returns to production mode and presents the rock-filled, gender-bending, one-act, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” at the Arts Asylum Theater in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.
Steven Eubank, artistic director of Egads! turned over directorship of this production to Kansas City favorite, Vanessa Severo (who has performed in the show in the past) and brought in a veteran of the Hedwig show, Justin Carter-Van Pelt to star as Hedwig. Van Pelt is joined on stage by another Kansas City favorite, Katie Gilchrist in a highly disguised role.
The story, mostly an extended monologue with rock music added, tells the story of a young man who undergoes a sex-change operation (gone horribly wrong) to marry and escape East Germany prior to the demise of the Berlin Wall and reunification. Instead of a vagina, Hedwig finds himself with a one inch protrusion, known as his angry inch.
The story tells his past and present as a young man with talent that’s never been fully realized. The show’s biting humor includes form audience teasing by Hedwig and updated material to reflect the Trump presidency and current political turmoil.
“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” allows the lead performer lots of latitude with the performance as he can strut, tease, and cajole the audience throughout the telling of his story. Van Pelt wears the character from his first appearance through the final bow. He’s comfortable with the show, and it shows in his characterization. He’s solid, focused, controlled, and poised. As for Gilchrist, she disappears into her character and when the show allows, she explodes with her powerhouse vocals.
The show also depends on the strong band that accompanies the production. Hedwig is performing in a small venue in ear-shot of a superstar that she created. Fame allowed him to gain superstar status while she struggles to sell tickets to smaller venues. While fame alluded her, Hedwig’s mixture of pride/anger/jealousy remind the audience that she helped create her former lover’s success.
The band backing the performers are: Felix Dukes, Sean Hogge, Mark Johnson, and Richie St. John. The production team was led by Vanessa Severo, director; Ashley Pike, stage manager; Sally Ferrard, assistant stage manager; Alex Perry, lighting design; Jenni McSpadden, set and props designer; Justin Carter-Van Pelt, costume design; Jeff Eubank, sound design; Bobbi Zlotnik and Ryan Webster, wig design; Justin Carter-Van Pelt, projections; Brandon Ketchum, technical director; Matthew Koehler and Brandon Dale, spot operators.
Tags: “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”, Egads! Theatre, Arts Asylum, Kansas City Theater, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment