Hedwig sings her heart out
Hedwig sings her
heart out
Last week marked the opening of Hedwig And The Angry Inch with Ally Sheedy in the title role of the Glam-rock Diva. In the past two years, this powerful musical by John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask has been played by a series of male actors who made this memorable Drag Queen's story a cult rock classic. Then, in January, at the Sundance Film Festival, Mitchell and Sheedy became acquainted and began to discuss the possibility of a woman playing the part. Once Sheedy saw a videotape of a performance, she was inspired to take on the role. Sheedy's artistic decision - to play Hedwig gender-neutral - merged with Mitchell's intent that the play be post-sexuality and post-drag, more about gender and love, in general. "At a certain point, it doesn't really matter - it's just the person," Sheedy says. And what a person she created, indeed!

In the course of 90 minutes, Sheedy relays the sad story of Hedwig's youth, as an effeminate boy who survives a botched sex change operation, escapes East Berlin, and finds herself first abandoned by the husband who took her out of the country, and then dumped by her later rocker boyfriend who steals her lyrics, her music, her spotlight. When Sheedy's Hedwig first swoops into the theatre she is in full drag draped in a huge winged cape, a victorious Wagnerian soprano dressed for battle in her warrior's armor and wrist deflectors! Her chiseled cheekbones - painted icy white - her eyes dressed with sparkling blue shadow, her upswept platinum hair all make for an intensely dramatic look.

As the evening progresses and the booze dulls Hedwig's pain and vulnerability, she begins to reveal the traumatic events of her childhood. In her German accent, she reminisces how as a small boy, with his head jammed in the oven listening to the American Armed Forces Radio, he created a half-baked fantasy world filled with images of Lou Reed, David Bowie and Karen Carpenter as his heroes and alter egos. He eventually meets a GI who convinces him to give up his male identity and come to the America as his wife. Once stateside he is deserted, left to fend for himself as a woman and finally finds his soul mate in a young teenage boy that she then nurtures, mentors and molds into Tommy Gnosis the oracle of heavy metal music. Her lover callously spurs her love, steals her music leaving poor Hedwig devastated. A total victim raped physically, emotionally, and psychologically by everyone she's loved then rejected and tossed away like a disposable plastic pop bottle, it's no wonder she finds herself dumped like trash in some God forsaken Kansas trailer park.

Sheedy as Hedwig
Sheedy as Hedwig
Ms. Sheedy tackles the vocal challenges of the show with the same fearless energy with which she approached the role, delivering her own renditions of popular songs. If she is not as exaggerated and campy as other Hedwigs, or "not as strong vocally as Cher," as others have stated, it is really not that important; she creates such a solid character behind the music, you're compelled to watch and listen to the bitter end. During a throbbing strobe lit sequence, Sheedy courageously gives up the ghost of Hedwig and passes the mantel and Goddess wig over to her husband, a Jewish Drag Queen more beautiful than she, allowing him the opportunity denied her, to reveal to the world what a beautiful woman she is.

Ultimately, Sheedy blurs the lines distinguishing male from female, actor from audience and succeeds in her goal by presenting us with a person totally stripped of pretence, aching to be loved not for what he/she outwardly possesses, but for what he/she desperately longs to share.