For all its subversive storytelling and punk-rock glam, Hedwig and the Angry Inch is very much about raw, vulnerable, honesty. It's no coincidence that the lead actor, who has spent the previous 100 minutes coated in glitter and outrageous wigs, finally strips down to a pair of tiny shorts, turns his back, and walks away from the audience.
But even before Euan Morton literally leaves it all onstage, he's long been shedding pieces of his character's soul through gut-wrenching songs and acerbic banter. The Scottish Morton, who first gained notice in the U.S. for playing Boy George in the Broadway musical Taboo, is no stranger to flamboyance, and that works strongly in his favor as the "internationally ignored song stylist" of John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask's once-cult, now-legitimized, musical.
When Hedwig first premiered Off Broadway in 1998, it was after years of Mitchell and Trask working on the material through club gigs. That's why the gritty show itself is more of a rock concert than a traditional musical, tapping into the frenzy of a Beatles show, the androgyny of David Bowie, and the unpredictability of Iggy Pop.
It's also why we get such a kickass band onstage — they play as the Angry Inch during the show, but the foursome actually performs under the name Tits of Clay at outside gigs. Justin Craig, Matt Duncan, Tim Mislock, and Dylan Fusillo come direct from the Broadway production, which famously rotated celebrities in the role of Hedwig and scored Dallasite Tim O'Heir a Tony nomination for the sound design.
But on this tour, Hedwig is 100 percent Morton's. With the muscled legs of a footballer and a smile that often dissolves into a grimace, Morton is an athletic, aggressive coquette, strutting across the Winspear Opera House stage with only as much delicacy as gold lamé platform heels would allow. He's not restricted to the stage, though, so those in the first 15 or so rows should consider themselves warned about the possibility of full-frontal audience participation.
This show holds nothing back, and that includes the gruesome explanation behind its title. Through frenetic rock songs such as "Tear Me Down" and "Angry Inch," and with the animated projections created by Phosphene/John Bair and Benjamin Pearcy for 59 Productions, we learn how the East German Hansel became abandoned Army wife Hedwig.
Stuck in a Kansas mobile home without a lover, direction, or even a clear gender, Hedwig meets an intriguing teenager and forms a rock band with him. Now he's a celebrity, performing a sold-out redemption tour while Hedwig bitterly trails behind with her small band and husband/lackey/punching bag, Yitzhak (Hannah Corneau, done up in convincing mannish drag and sporting a powerhouse voice).
It's possible you missed the musical's area premiere by Kitchen Dog Theater in 2003, or the excellent production by Uptown Players in summer 2015. You could miss this one too, but chances are Hedwig wouldn't be too pleased.
The national tour of Hedwig and the Angry Inch plays at the Winspear Opera House through February 12.