Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a must-see performance

Culture Theatre

The play tells audiences that “To become free, you must leave something behind”

Photo provided by Atomic Vaudeville

The road to success is not an easy one. It can feel like nothing but a string of bad decisions and trusting the wrong people, with your goals and dreams forever just out of reach. A journey like this can change a person for better or for worse.

Such is the story of Hedwig, as portrayed in the theatrical drag show Hedwig and the Angry Inch that will be coming to the Capital Ballroom in Victoria on June 27, 28, and 30. 

Hedwig is a talented performer and songwriter, forever chasing both her moment in the spotlight and her other half she believes will finally make her feel whole. Born and raised in East Berlin, Hedwig, then Hans, dreamed of escaping the city and grew up listening to classic rock late at night inside the oven, as her family’s house was too small and Hedwig’s mother didn’t like any extra noise. One traumatic event later, Hedwig escapes, only to have the Berlin Wall fall down a year later. This is a story of love, struggle, heartache, pain, what it means to be in a relationship, and moving forward despite it all, all told on the evening of a punk rock musical on Hedwig’s opening night next to a massive show right next door.

Originally workshopped in bars and queer venues in New York City, Hedwig and the Angry Inch grew and grew, gaining a venue off Broadway and a movie adapation before coming to Broadway in 2012 starring Neil Patrick Harris. The play has since been adapted and changed from its original run, but according to Griffin Leonard Lea who plays Hedwig in the Victoria production, “[The show] exists in whatever space and moment it’s happening in — it’s always evolving.” 

This is Atomic Vaudeville’s third consecutive year of producing the show in Victoria. “It is such a joy to keep coming back to,” said Lea, who finds new elements to love every single time. 

Even watching the show once reveals so many different aspects and angles from which to enjoy and study the play: the excellent music, the humour, the writing, the pure struggle of the characters, and the complicated relationships they all carry with them. 

When asked why they keep coming back to the same story, Lea answered, “It constantly yields greater rewards, and it feels like it keeps building and then we tear it apart.”

The two stars of the show, Jana Morrison (who plays Yitzhak) and Lea, give stand out performances that are larger than life. Even Yitzhak, Hedwig’s husband, who is often pushed to the side as Hedwig hugs the spotlight, has some incredible and brutally raw moments. 

“[A big part of Yitzhak’s struggle is] not being able to be exactly who you are because somebody else’s insecurities,” said Morrison. “The story itself can be a little bit absurd and unique, certainly. It’s not everyone’s experience. But I think the relationships within it and how we treat each other are so universal that anyone can see themselves in either [Hedwig or Yitzhak],” added Lee. 

The core of the play is the struggle of relationships. Hedwig is desperate in searching for her ultimate soul mate to make her life perfect. With all Hedwig’s talk of soul mates, and how perfect her ex is, Yitzhak is off to the side, not perfect but still in love with her.

As Lea noted, “Relationships are tough, and sometimes we’re a little overbearing and we don’t notice it.” 

“We don’t notice it,” Morrison added, “because we’re trying to just, so comfortable with the person you’re with all the time that taking it out on them is just so easy and it’s so bad.” 

Through all of that, things begin to click for the characters one painful piece at a time until they can’t look away from it anymore. They are forced to confront what they’ve done to themselves and others in order to accomplish their dreams, or just make the people they love happy.

“Something happens at the end of the play, where it’s like you feel transformed somehow and it’s just the magic of the rhythm and the music, and the characters,” said Britt Small, Hedwig’s director and an alumni of the UVic Theatre Program. 

Watching this play, I definitely got sucked into that transformation. 

If anything that I’ve written about Hedwig and the Angry Inch sounds interesting to you, go see it —I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. It’s a story about emotional struggle and growth as characters realize how much hurt they’ve caused themselves and others. It’s funny, the music is great, it’s raw and bleeding with hurt, but at the end, it’s ultimately a transformative and an amazing experience. 

As Hedwig says in the play, “To become free, you must leave something behind.” But throughout the show, they learn that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice who you are. To move forward, you must leave behind the person you were in order to become a better person.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch is playing June 27, 28, 30 at the Capital Ballroom, 19+ only. Tickets are available online.