Friday, May 1, 2015
Dearly Darren (Stage Review: Hedwig And The Angry Inch, starring Darren Criss, The Belasco Theater)
It’s a long boring story how I ended up seeing Darren Criss as Hedwig. Needless to say, that show wasn’t my first choice to see that night. I saw the 1998 Off Broadway production with John Cameron Mitchell, and I wasn’t in love with the show then, but have full respect for Mr. Mitchell. I know the show has a cult following, and that’s fine – they are kind of like the Rentheads, I guess. I know someone who went to see the original production numerous times, and now on Broadway have seen every major replacement in this production since Neil Patrick Harris. I never saw Mr. Harris’ Tony Award winning performance, so I don’t know if that favoured my opinion of Mr. Criss who is now essaying this role. While I also like Mr. Criss, I also can’t say I am a big fan – I mean – he was cute enough on Glee, but and that’s all I really feel about him. So anyway, I have to admit it took me a little bit of time to warm up to this production – initially I am thinking this is too big for the show – the effects, the projections. There was a part of me who felt Mr. Mitchell copped out. But you know what? I mean, isn’t small, or biggishly small the whole point of Hedwig – a never was, slightly bitter, miniaturist fabulous performer? I can’t really say I loved this production, to be honest. I missed the intimacy of the show, where it felt like the theater was a dive bar. But they do recreate it in all its glory, for better or worse. And… (drumroll) Mr Criss surprised me. I went in hating the experience, skeptical of the production, but I felt like he worked his hot ass off to not just win me over, but have me go gags over him. While I have to admit that there was a big part of me who was imagining Mr. Harris doing the role, that quickly went away as I experience Mr. Criss – he has the stage presence, and this production shows off his skill set immensely. I would even say that he sang some of these songs, like “tear Me Down,” and “Midnight Radio” fairly better than how Mr. Harris performs it on the cast recording, which I have listened to. So it was a tough sell, but Mr. Criss delivered, and I left The Belasco Theater happier than when I entered - and that is a mighty good thing.