Review: Be Lovin’ It: Uptown Players’ HEDWIG Rocks the Kalita
Amor omnia vincit. Maybe in Hedwig’s case, Wink-it? Love conquers all. Not every day, or every time, or every situation. But in Uptown Players’ production of the revered 1998 rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, running through September 13 at the Kalita Humphreys Theater, love—in an honest, intense, human, revelatory, intimate, glorious, explosive way – does ultimately conquer its characters and sweeps the cheering, stamping, clapping capacity crowd right along with the Cupid-struck. A Holy Roller-style revival meeting couldn’t make truer believers out of dour skeptics. Hallelujah, brothers and sisters!
Spectacle: On opening night I entered that hallowed ritual space, the Kalita Humphreys Theater, as an innocent Hedwig virgin, and left cosmically satisfied, well beyond any aspect of critical carnal expectation. Hedwig brims over with experiential awesomeness for body, heart and soul. Orgasmic? That’s not to say that its physical realities in production sight and sound disappoint in any way. From twinkling ropes of Christmas lights strung in wild profusion over the audience to a multi-level, 70’s-evoking glam rock opera industrial girder set (Bart McGeehon) strewn across the stage with rock musicians perched strategically about to best create a balanced, blasting rock opera immersion ((Virgil Justice), to Hedwig’s array of dazzlingly raunchy David Bowie-esque costumes (including batwing chaps) and extravagant, magnetized wigs (Derek Whitener, Victor Brockwell, Coy Covington), what a feast for the imaginative sensualist in everyone. Upstage, multimedia projections reinforce the rip-roaring spectacle, incorporating shots of the destruction of the Berlin Wall with a phantasmagoria of pulsating colors and shapes to match the emotions of each moment (Bart McGeehon, Amanda West). Then there’s the music, directed by Scott Eckert, also playing keyboard and guitar, with Rick Norman on bass, Jason Bennett on guitar and Justin Labosco on drums. Eleven satisfying rock anthems emanate in a no-restraints range of rock decibels and styles, each pleasing unto itself but all building to the final transcendent, joyful reveal at show’s end.
Acting/singing/direction: Kyle Igneczi gives an unforgettable, non-stop, powerhouse, evocative performance as Hedwig. Perfect casting. Grace Neeley debuts at Uptown, treading a tightrope of challenges with masterful precision in portraying Hedwig’s less glamorous, seemingly passive-aggressive husband. Perfect casting. When the two sing together, their harmony is sublime. Alone, each rocks out in exemplary fashion. Major kudos to director Jeremy Dumont: for pairing this duo and making the most of their complimentary skills and talents. My respect for his creative touch expands by leaps and bounds.
Truth? This is a simple love story set within a rock musical, about two characters the audience grows to appreciate as honest beacons of love’s manifestation: the gender-bending Hedwig and husband Yitzhak. As I watched the truths of both characters manifest, I tingled all over, enraptured by what transpires. If you know the show, you understand. Go live it again. If you don’t, discover it here. The truth will set you free. Love can conquer most anything. At the Kalita Humphreys Theater, love and awesome rock triumph over all in Uptown Players’ Hedwig and the Angry Inch. I be going back if I can….
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Book by John Cameron Mitchell, with music and lyrics by Stephen Trask
http://www.uptownplayers.org (214) 219-2718
Location: Kalita Humphreys Theater
3636 Turtle Creek Blvd (at Blackburn), Dallas, TX 75219
PERFORMANCES SELLING OUT FAST. BUY TICKETS NOW.