Audience members filled tables and chairs in Aggie Central Station Thursday, Friday and Saturday night to see the opening weekend of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” Each night, by the end of the final number, audience members were giving the cast a standing ovation for their performance.
“I am a fan of the play,” Ellen Welti, graduate student in biology, said. “It’s great that we have LGBT-supportive entertainment in Manhattan. I thought it was way better than anything I could have expected. It defied my expectations.”
“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is a musical about Hansel Schmidt, who is stuck in Communist-occupied East Berlin during the Cold War era. Schmidt remains in Germany until a male, American soldier falls in love with him and asks to marry him. Schmidt agrees, but there is a problem: he will have to get surgery to become biologically female.
The surgery Schmidt undergoes is botched, and she ends up with one inch of flesh remaining where her penis used to be, which she nicknames her “angry inch.” Schmidt is renamed Hedwig Robinson and moves stateside with her new husband.
After being in the U.S. for about a year, Robinson gets divorced when her husband falls in love with another man. After forming a band of other East Berlin refugees, she fals in love with Tommy Speck (aka Tommy Gnosis) who she believes is her “other half.” When Speck realizes that Robinson is not a naturally-born female, he leaves her and begins making millions of dollars while touring internationally with the songs they had written in the time they were together.
The musical ends with Robinson realizing who she really is behind all of the wigs, makeup and costumes. She finally comes to terms with the events that took her to where she was when the musical began.
“This has been absolutely and elating for me,” said Evan Tuttle, who plays Robinson and is the executive director of the Aggieville Business Association. “When one is a performer, performing a show this intense is the best thing one can do.”
Tuttle said the show is a roller coaster of emotion. He said the show was so touching that he cries after every performance because it is such a cathartic performance for him.
“I come around to who my true self really is,” Tuttle said. “I am so emotionally invested in my character and that I sympathize with her.”
All the music is performed live during each performance. Betsy Baddeley performs as Yitzhak, the backup singer; Ashalen Sims performs as Skszp, the keyboardist; Stephen Keith performs as Jacek, the bass player; Justin Trowbridge performs as Schlatko, drummer. All of these cast members are residents of Manhattan.
Nick Reiter, Manhattan resident who performs as Krzytsztof, the guitarist, said this has been a new world to him. Reiter said he has been playing in bands since 2000, but never in a theatrical production.
“We all have really great comradery,” Reiter said. “It was amazing how easily we all clicked and how well we all worked together. We all had a lot of support for one another.”
Heather Branham-Green, Manhattan resident, is the director of the production. The cast has been in rehearsals a few times a week since early January to get ready for the production, Branham-Green said.
Edward Raynor, graduate student in biology, said he had a great time at the production over the weekend. He said it was cool that the progressive production was portrayed in such a conservative state.
Additional performances of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” will be shown at Aggie Central Station, 1115 Moro St., this Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online at hedwigmhk.brownpapertickets.com. The performance run time is just over an hour with a 20-minute intermission.
“I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of this show,” Tuttle said. “I am grateful for the people who have come out to see the show, the venue, the cast and this ‘wicked little town.'”