"Mind if I take a Judy Garland moment?" the blonde bombshell asks as she drops to perch on the edge of the Kalita Humphreys stage. "Or, as you call it in Dallas, a Janelle Lutz?"
The topical reference got a huge laugh from the opening night crowd of Uptown Players' Hedwig and the Angry Inch, but it wouldn't be crazy to predict that soon a "Kyle Igneczi moment" will work its way into the Dallas lexicon.
Igneczi, donning the outrageous makeup, wigs, and costumes of the East German glam rocker Hedwig, has delivered a star turn of such stunning proportions that people will be talking about it for a long, long time.
Hedwig is an Off-Broadway cult musical that found its way to a film version in 2001 and finally a Broadway debut in 2014, famously starring first Neil Patrick Harris and then a string of celeb replacements. Coincidentally, the Broadway version closes the same day as Uptown's production (September 13).
Original star John Cameron Mitchell wrote the show's book, which tells of the effeminate Hansel, who's so desperate to get over the Berlin Wall that he "leaves a part of himself" on his way to America. It's the kind of powerhouse show that shocks as much with its heart and it does with its rock 'n' roll patina and bawdy jokes, but what's going on at the Kalita Humphreys Theater could easily rival any New York production.
Does it sound like I'm gushing? I am. It's a startlingly great production. Igneczi displays the ease of a standup comic with the charming naughtiness of a true entertainer (more than a little comparison to Neil Patrick Harris is warranted). But the praise isn't just reserved for Igneczi and his vulnerable, sassy, commanding take on the rocker who's left reeling after a botched sex-change operation. It's a team effort, from the performances to the musicians to the outstanding design work and especially director Jeremy Dumont's command of the material.
Sharing the stage with Igneczi is Grace Neeley as Hedwig's roadie husband, Yitzhak. Slinking around like a kicked puppy, Neeley is gruff, timid, and able to convey so much with very few words (would you believe she's also a Marilyn Monroe impersonator in real life?).
Led by music director Scott Eckert, the Angry Inch onstage band know how to rock it out. Rick Norman (bass), Jason Bennett (guitar), and Justin Labosco (drums) go all out on Stephen Trask's harsh yet lovely score, giving Igneczi people to play with when he's not teasing the audience.
Bart McGeehon's set appears simple, but slowly alters throughout to mirror the changes Hedwig undergoes. The projections are especially effective, and work in tandem with Amanda West's fantastic lighting design.
And what would Hedwig be without the trashy-chic costumes, a mish-mash of bustiers, hot pants, fishnet hose, and pleather? Derek Whitener and Victor Brockwell have assembled all that and more, including a head-turning final look for Yitzhak. Coy Covington's wigs, though in line with the expected blonde Hedwig tresses, mask the fierce makeup designed by Laura Neeley with a curtain of heavy bangs.
But by the end, there are no more costumes, no more wigs, no more makeup for Hedwig. It's just Kyle Igneczi, standing bare and defiant onstage while applause roars in. He's having his moment.
Uptown Players' Hedwig and the Angry Inch runs through September 13.