Replacements, Rewrites And Hedwig: John Cameron Mitchell’s Adventure With Hedwig And The Angry Inch

Hedwig

With leads that reads like a roll call of the most exciting men on Broadway (Neil Patrick Harris, Andrew Rannells, Michael C. Hall, John Cameron Mitchell and Daren Criss), it’s fair to say that audiences are well and truly ready for Hedwig.

From a pretty spectacular beginning Off-Broadway in 1998, winning the Obie Award and Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical to its triumphant Broadway debut last year, taking home four Tony Awards including Best Revival of a Musical and acting nods for stars Neil Patrick Harris and Lena Hall, Hedwig and the Angry Inch has had theatre-goers clamouring for tickets, with many returning time and again to see what each new lead brings to the role.

The current Hedwig is the musical’s co-creator, John Cameron Mitchell who has proved the old adage; “the show must go on,” returning to the stage after a weeklong hiatus following an onstage injury. Rocking the knee-brace-under-fishnet look and with a few minor script additions, Mitchell is back taking no prisoners.

Mitchell recently spoke to Broadway.com about the role, how the show has evolved with each subsequent Hedwig and plans for the future.

Set like a rock concert, there’s room within the book for the actors to play off the audience and each other. Improvisation can be a daunting prospect for even the most seasoned performer, but some thrive on the risk and immediacy of it. However, like all things, practice makes perfect.

“The first time, I did Hedwig because I wanted to learn how to be free and improvisational the way rock and roll people or standup [comedians] are, and it was hard for me. It was so hard to throw in a new line,” Mitchell remembers. “Now, it’s easy, because I just don’t care anymore—not in the way I used to. That’s what’s fun about it. Writers usually have to be alone at the computer. I’m writing in a wig on the spot.”

With this freedom, it allows the replacement performers room to leave their mark on their Hedwig, though that’s not to say that it doesn’t come with its own set of challenges.

“The Broadway replacement system is a difficult one because you don’t always have the full complement of people paying attention. It’s hard to re-direct someone every three months, so there’s kind of a piecemeal effect,” said Mitchell.

He continues: “We’re reinventing the replacement wheel, because every time we do it, we learn a little bit more about tailoring it for the person rather than just putting them into the template. I love it. I’ve helped put in a lot of Hedwigs in my day and I hope to do a lot more.”

And what about for the next Hedwig in line, Glee’s Darren Criss? What does he have in store for his Hedwig? “I really want to be there for Darren Criss, who is incredibly motivated and hardworking and so excited about this. I want to rewrite some new stuff for him—just for him.”

With a new Hedwig and a new Yitzhak (Rebecca Naomi Jones replaces Lena Hall from April 14, with Criss stepping into Hedwig’s heels from April 29), it will be interesting to see the changes to the show and what these potential rewrites could involve (a new musical number?!).

While the musical has been wowing New York, many fans in other theatre capitals have been anxiously waiting word on when the show might come to their town. Well, it looks like your wait has not been in vain as Mitchell reveals that they have plans to bring the production to Europe, Asia and Australia. However, no dates or locations have been set.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch is currently playing at the Belasco Theatre. Tickets can be booked here.

Clare Sidoti
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