When news broke Monday that three-time Tony Award host Neil Patrick Harris was heading back to Broadway in spring 2014 to headline "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," some of you might have asked … Who is Hedwig and what is an Angry Inch? The musical has a cult following and it gained more fans when it was made into a film in 2001.
For those uninitiated in the world of Hedwig before now (or, as the tagline says, "this business we call show"), here's our handy guide to everything you need to know!
1. He's a "she" … kind of
The character of Hedwig was born "Hansel," an effeminate boy in East Germany, who falls in love with an American soldier named Luther towards the end of the Cold War. In order to escape, he must marry Luther, so he takes his mother's name and passport and heads in for a sex change operation. But the operation doesn't go according to plan, which leads to the question …
2. What's the Angry Inch?
Following his botched sex change operation, Hedwig is left with a one-inch mound of flesh between his legs, or, his "angry inch," which also later becomes the name of his unsuccessful band of fellow Eastern European ex-pats, which tours Bligewater restaurants throughout America. Hedwig's journey also involves his love story in Kansas with a boy named Tommy Speck, who goes on to become rock star Tommy Gnosis, singing the songs that Hedwig wrote for him. The rest of the show involves Hedwig's journey to finally find true love in his life.
3. This isn't Hedwig's 'First Time at The Rodeo'
"Hedwig" is a revival of a musical, which was first produced off-Broadway in 1997 by David Binder. John Cameron Mitchell created the character, wrote the book of the show, and also starred as the original Hedwig. The characters originated from performances by Mitchell and his friends at the early-'90s New York City drag club Squeezebox. Mitchell reprised his role in the indie film version of "Hedwig" in 2001. Hedwig has also been played on stage over the years by a number of actors, including Michael Cerveris, brat packer Ally Sheedy (the only woman to inhabit the role), Anthony Rapp, and Donovan Leitch Jr. Both the stage and film won multiple critical accolades when they first originated.
4. If Hedwig has a band, that means this is likely a musical, right?
Yep, and it's a really great one at that. The music and lyrics (written by Stephen Trask, who played "Skszp" in the original production), is the best part of this show. Over the past 15 years, "Hedwig" has become practically iconic. In 1998, the show won Entertainment Weekly’s "Soundtrack of the Year" Award and Time Magazine named it the Top Musical of the year.
The soundtrack also inspired a 2003 all-star charity tribute album called "Wig In A Box," which featured artists including Rufus Wainwright, Sleater-Kinney, Fred Schneider of The B-52's, They Might Be Giants, The Breeders, Yoko Ono, Yo La Tengo, Ben Kweller, Ben Folds, Cyndi Lauper, and even …. Stephen Colbert!
Two of the best tracks from "Hedwig" are "The Origin of Love" and "Midnight Radio," and it's going to be very exciting to hear Harris take them on. Listen to them, here:
5. This production is excited to have Neil, Neil is excited to be in this production, and just about everyone in NYC and anyone who's ever been a fan of Broadway is very very excited this is happening:
"I am simultaneously ecstatic and terrified to be stepping into Hedwig's heels," Harris said Monday about his casting. "It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime role and I can't wait to begin the journey." Binder has been working on trying to nail down this casting for quite some time, and now it's finally happening. While it's hard for anyone to fill Mitchell's shoes, no one right now could be more excited to take on Hedwig than Harris. And this casting reportedly has Mitchell's blessing.
Expect this to be Broadway's hottest ticket of 2014, and when next year's Tony Awards come around, Harris likely won't just be a host … he's a strong candidate to be a winner as well.