Oregon Music News: Oregon’s all-genre music magazine since 2009


Hedwig returns: Portland Center Stage with Delphon “D.J.” Curtis, Jr.

By HOLLY JOHNSON //  Hedwig is alive and well. Delphon “D.J.” Curtis, Jr. explodes in a simply magnificent performance. Portland Center Stage has offered the city  a luscious gift by bringing this show back.

Transgender themes and issues fill the news these days. They’re commonplace.  But over two decades ago, 1998 to be exact, a fierce, appealing heartfelt musical opened off Broadway. It was called “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,’ telling a gender-fluid  story new for its time.
 In 2001, it was made into a film. The lead figure, Hedwig, emotional (and physical) victim of a botched sex change, was played by John Cameron Mitchell, who also wrote and composed songs with Stephen Trask. He directed and performed the part in the film and theater premier. The story is culled from Mitchell’s own experiences.
Portland Center Stage has offered the city  a luscious gift by bringing the show back. Hedwig is alive and well. Delphon “D.J.” Curtis, Jr. explodes in a simply magnificent performance as th  lead in this “post-punk neo-glam rock musical” as it has been described.  As an East German youth (Hansel later becomes Hedwig) who needs a sex change in order to marry his love, and move to America, Curtis is riveting.
He gets under our skin utterly, completely as he/she undergoes all the aspects of love, lust, anger, longing and despair in a journey to feel whole. As his partner Yiztak, a smaller but equally powerful role, Ithica Tell is marvelous,  transformed into an Eastern European male whose backup vocals are unbeatable. The Angry Inch band pulls out all the stops in the background, bringing new life to such first-rate songs as “Tear down the Wall,” “Wicked Little Town,” (my favorite) “Hedwig’s Lament,”  and “Wig in a Box.”
The set design by Britton Mauk is cleverly inspired from an abandoned mall in Portland. The design is for a rundown café near a Kansas trailer park where Hedwig has been abandoned. Here, the set has room for some of the audience member to sit on. And the costume designs by Dominique Fawn Hill have all the slight shabbiness and glitter that suits the show.  Behind the sparkling, show-biz, glam-rock demeanor of “Hedwig” lies a real, heartfelt story taken in part from Mitchell’s own life. This  tale of human longing and search for wholeness has universal appeal. The show runs through Feb. 23 in the Ellyn Bye Studio. Visit PCS.org.

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