Produced by: San Jose Stage Company
Directed by: Allison F. Rich
Music direction by: Katie Coleman
Featuring: Keith Pinto, Ashley Garlick, Katie Coleman, Loki Miller, Jeremy Pollett, Ryan Stohs, Jonathan Rhys Williams
Stage manager: Alicia Lerner
Scenic and lighting design: Michael Palumbo
Costume design: Abra Berman
Sound design: Steve Schoenbeck
Wig and makeup design: Ashley Garlick
When: Previews May 30-June 1; opening night June 2; through July 8, 2018
Where: San Jose Stage, 490 South 1st Street, San Jose
Tickets: $30-$65. Call 408-283-7142, or visit www.thestage.org
Read an interview with Keith Pinto from May 30, 2018
Read an interview with Keith Pinto from February 4, 2017
by 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch'
in powerful, fun show directed by Allison F. Rich
The fourth wall is completely obliterated in San Jose Stage Company's brilliant, raucous rock 'n' roll masterpiece production of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," which had the entire audience standing to scream and applaud on opening night.
The amazing Keith Pinto and his gorgeous legs under a tiny mini-skirt ran high up into the audience to sit on someone's lap, and danced over to the front row to kiss me on the forehead (I'll never wash it again!). Over the course of the show, other members of the band also run into audience land, making the whole thing like a big party in a punk-rock club.
The audience loved it all.
Pinto is astounding as Hansel Schmidt, a "slip of a girlyboy" who becomes Hedwig Robinson, would-be rock star.
The play is a concert by Hedwig and his/her band, The Angry Inch, held at San Jose Stage Company, during which, between songs, Hedwig tells his tale. Hedwig is wearing a wig designed by costar Ashley Garlick that has huge blond bangs on either side of her face that look like they could make her fly.
There are stars all over Hedwig's costume (by Abra Berman), including on the high-heeled Chucks on which Pinto prances, dances and jumps.
Hedwig alternates between humor and pathos as she recounts the history of her life, starting on the East German side of the wall, where as a young boy he fell in love with rock music, listening to it with his head inside an oven.
His father is gone, and his mother is busy with her state-assigned job, "teaching sculpture to limbless children."
Young Hansel is seduced with candy and lust by an American Army sergeant, Luther Robinson — whose voice is one of many than Pinto delivers with amazing skill. It's hilarious to see that Southern American soldier voice coming out of that garishly made-up face.
In a reversal of roles, Hedwig recounts, "When Luther popped the question, I was on my knees."
It is to marry Luther that Hedwig agrees to a sex-change operation, which is badly botched as his would-be vagina closes, and he is left with the "angry inch."
Hedwig also tells some stories about San Jose Stage Company itself. The building used to be a Goodyear tire store. Hedwig made a hydraulic lift joke, natürlich, and talks about some of the shows that were there for the 35th season, which "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" closes.
"Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" gets special notice: "I heard 'Toby' was really good in 'Sweeney Todd,'" he said. Pinto played that role; Allison F. Rich, who directs this production of "Hedwig," played Mrs. Lovett. And Hedwig is a little bit put out because rhythm guitarist Skszp insisted on being at every performance of "The Postman Always Rings Twice" in April. That's because Jonathan Rhys Williams, who plays Skszp was busy being excellent as Frank in that play.
The music and lyrics throughout are excellent, as written by Stephen Trask and delivered by a powerful onstage band. Katie Coleman is music director, and is suitably dolled up as punk rocker Hlava behind a keyboard, and when slinging a keytar over her shoulders. "1984 called," Hedwig says. "They want their keytar back."
Loki Miller, with hair a reddish color that does not occur in nature was red-hot as lead guitarist Krzyzhtof.
The excellent rhythm section included Jeremy Pollett as bassist Jacek, and Ryan Stohs as drummer Schlatko. Pollett played a five-string bass, which has that low B string, for added punch.
The book, by Cameron Mitchell (who performed the lead role on stage and in the movie), is a fairly powerful blend of humor and pathos as Hedwig's story unfolds.
There is the heart-breaking story of Hedwig's romance with the boy who becomes a rock star, Tommy Gnosis, taking Hedwig's guidance and songs but leaving Hedwig behind. Tommy is performing nearby, and several times a door to the outside is opened, to let the San Jose sun and Gnosis's performance intrude on Hedwig's story.
Hedwig is a hopeless or helpess romantic who still yearns for Tommy and for his success and who is horridly and inexplicably mean to her current husband, Yitzhak.
Yitzhak is played with considerable brilliance and great voice by Garlick. With scraggly dark hair and a three-day growth of beard, it's almost possible to not see that she is, in fact, a beautiful young woman.
And, one with a fabulous voice, who harmonizes frequently with Hedwig and the rest of the singers in the band.
The script leaves plenty of room for improvisation and additions (such as Hedwig's speech about San Jose Stage Company), and one such addition in this production was Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You," sung by Garlick with all the power of the Whitney Houston version. Powerful.
Most of the songs, of course, are by Trask, and most are sung by Hedwig. "Origin of Love," "Sugar Daddy," and "The Angry Inch" among them. Perhaps the best is "Wicked Little Town," which gets a touching reprise. "Wig in a Box" is a terrific earworm of a song, and lyrics are projected above the stage for an audience sing-along, which is fun.
Pinto's voice was amazing throughout, and displayed an awesome range going from some pretty amazing highs to impressive lows. Quite often his voice had the rich timbre of David Bowie's voice. (Bowie co-produced a Los Angeles iteration of this show.) And Pinto did all that great singing while bouncing all over the stage and the auditorium like a helium-filled tennis ball.
This show marks Rich's debut as a professional director, and she did an amazing job. And was dragged down from the audience by cast members after the show to get a well-deserved standing ovation.
Hats off to dialect coach Kimily Conkly, who undoubtedly helped Pinto deliver that German accent, as well as a few other voices.
And sound designer Steve Schoenbeck did amazing work, especially challenging given the distribution around the auditorium of the band members.
Michael Palumbo did a great job with lighting, as did Garland Thompson Jr. with projections. Palumbo also designed the set.
The joint was jumpin' at the end of this show, thanks to powerful punk rock telling a meaningful story of inclusion and acceptance.
Don't miss it. It's not every day that something this good comes around.
Email John Orr at firstname.lastname@example.org