2015 saw the closure of one of the biggest Broadway revivals in recent years. After a triumphant 528 show run, Hedwig and the Angry Inch closed on September 13, 2015. The “Ea Braw” revival of the cult classic, penned by John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask, gained a new generation of Hedheads, and won critical acclaim with Tony Awards in 2014, including Best Revival, Best Director for Michael Mayer, and Best Actor and Actress for Neil Patrick Harris and Lena Hall respectively.
Although the show opened in 2014 (and for me 2015), Hedwig has seen four different actors pull their wigs down from the shelf, including Glee star Darren Criss. The show also saw John Cameron Mitchell’s awe inspiring return to the stage, playing the role he created both at The Jane Street Theatre in 1998 and on the screen with the 2001 movie adaptation of the show.
Mitchell’s return to the iconic role, that he is synonymous with, was met with rapture by the fans of the show. Even though Mitchell was 51 at the time of his return in January, it is safe to say he exploded onto the stage at The Belasco with the energy of a man half his age. Mitchell’s Hedwig was more weathered and beat down than Harris and Andrew Rannells who played the role in 2014 respectively, but for die hard fans of the show it was like reopening the door to a Hedwig. Mitchell’s run was always going to be a true one off, however it was in a way no one expected.
Mitchell sustained a knee injury at the beginning of February and the producers had to draft in previous Hedwig Michael C. Hall to reprise his role in order to allow Mitchell to undergo surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Showing the world that he is the Hedwig to rule them all, Mitchell returned to the show complete with a knee brace and a glittery crutch and the “crate” shows were born. Mitchell reworked the show to say that Hedwig had been brutally attacked by an unknown assailant wearing a Michael C. Hall mask, and Hedwig rested her injured leg on a crate which led to a number of crate related gags including “it will be crate show”.
2015 was also the year that Mitchell was recognised by the Tony Awards as the recipient of the Special Tony Award. The award felt like the official recognition of the massive talent of the man who brought the story of Hedwig to life, and created the show which went on to mean so much, to so many people.
With Mitchell’s return to Hedwig and the Angry Inch, fan excitement was at an all time high and the news of who would be donning the gold boots following Mitchell was unexpected, yet welcomed, by a large number of people. The week Mitchell returned to the show, following his knee surgery, the news broke that Glee star Darren Criss would be returning to Broadway following his previous three week run in How to Succeed in Business Without Even Trying back in 2012. Criss announced the news with a simple video declaring to the world “I’m the new Berlin Wall baby.”
Criss made his Hedwig debut on April 29, and it was clear that the star had the full support of Mitchell and lyricist and composer Stephen Trask. Criss was also the first Hedwig to perform a full run without Tony Award winner Lena Hall playing Yitzhak. Hall left the role at the beginning of April with Harris, Rannells and Hall all returning to say goodbye on Hall’s final performance, with American Idiot star Rebecca Naomi Jones taking over the role from April 14. Jones and Criss had amazing chemistry and the younger incarnations of both Hedwig and Yitzhak definitely gave the show a whole new feel as well as bringing a whole new audience to see the show.
Criss made the role of the “internationally ignored song stylist” his own and proved what many including Mitchell have said that Hedwig is a character without age or stereotype. Criss’s 12 week run at the Belasco Theatre showed the world that there was more to the star than the clean cut, dapper Blaine Anderson. I was lucky enough to watch Criss in the role. He was a powerhouse of rock and roll energy with a deep seated anger previously unseen. Criss is a self proclaimed fan of the show, and it was so gratifying to watch him play a role that obviously meant so much to him.
2015 brought us the elder stateswoman Hedwig, the strange rock and roller Hedwig, and following Criss’s departure on July 19, fans were given another first; Rent star Taye Diggs was announced as the sixth star to don a wig and heels marking the show’s first person of colour Hedwig. Diggs casting, again showed that Hedwig is a show without limitations. The show marked a departure for Diggs who in recent times was best known for roles in Private Practice. Unknown to everyone at the time, Diggs would also be the last man to “put on some makeup” at the Belasco Theatre. It was announced in August that the show would close on September 13 after a 16 week run (which lasted 76 weeks) with plans for a nationwide US tour in 2016 and plans to bring the show back to London.
There is no doubt that the news of the closure hit the fans hard, but for many Hedheads, myself included, we were just crateful that the show was able to touch so many people; and in a year that brought marriage equality to the US, it felt that 2015 was definitely the year for a show like Hedwig and the Angry Inch to be lighting up the Great White Way.
Before we put the wig back on the shelf again, check out the video of the final night at the Belasco where Stephen Trask, Criss, Harris, Hall, Shannon Conley, and the crew of the show brought the house down with this goosebump inducing rendition of “Wig in a Box”:
Hedwig’s journey from the Jane Street Theatre to Midtown may have been a long one, but it is a journey I will be forever crateful for. The show has brought me closer to old friends and helped me meet some of the best people I could hope to have in my life. Plus, any show that shows the world you can achieve happiness and acceptance regardless of what you have to work with is ok with me. Let’s raise up our hands to the now internationally recognised song stylist who stood before us: Hedwig.