Hedwig and the Angry Inch tells the story of Hedwig Schmidt, the unfortunate victim of a gruesomely botched sex-change operation, and an "internationally ignored song-stylist". Her journey to find true love, "her other half", is a rock and roll odyssey which leads her across the Berlin Wall, across the world, and from man to woman.
Hedwig begins her journey as Hansel, a young boy growing up in Germany under a Stalinesque regime, and the equally strict regime of his mother. He finds what he believes to be an escape from his dreary existence in the form of a handsome "sugar daddy" - an American G.I. named Luther, who promises to take him away from Germany. The caveat, however, is that Luther can only take a bride back to America. Desperate to escape his situation, Hansel willingly agrees to a sex-change operation - an operation which is botched, leaving Hedwig with a one-inch reminder of her past.
Abandoned by her husband, living a down-and-out existence in America, Hedwig's journey to find her other half seems to have ground to a halt. Having fallen in love again, this time with Tommy Gnosis, who leaves her when he becomes a Rock and Roll Superstar, Hedwig takes stock of her situation and forms her own band: The Angry Inch.