Kendal Hartse IS Yitzhak, and Chris Hall IS Hedwig in quiet-riot rehearsal, as they prepare for the L!VE Asbury Park presentation of HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH at The Press Room on Bangs Ave — a show that’s offered both as a civilized evening of legitimate theatah AND a midnight-madness standing-room sensation.
Live theater in Asbury Park! What could operate more smoothly, and be more of a license to print money? We kid, of course: we’re well aware of the obstacles that regularly stare down those who are, after all, only looking to Put On a Show — whether professional or community; come-as-you-are or cast-o’-thousands.
This, however, is a story about three local companies who are snatching some semblance of victory from the jaws of deflated ego — including one fledgling concern that’s addressing the lack of a home-stage space by throwing out the rule book on how shows are presented to the public; even the question of who that theatergoing public IS. Another veteran company, given up for roadkill by some observers not so very long ago, reappears with a new home, a new season, and a renewed sense of purpose. Then there’s the established troupe that’s dealing with an unexpected setback by offering their fans an equally unexpected surprise.
This Thursday night, June 21, the people of L!VE Asbury Park — the all-new “entertainment company” formed by a cool and creative cabal of former regulars from ReVision Theatre regulars (producing partner Alecia Brooks, director Carlos Armesto, music director Michael Thomas Murray) present the first of five performances in what stands as their first fully staged musical production — a new look at the howlingly outrageous Off Broadway smash Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Like their one-nighter salute to Dusty Springfield a couple of months back, it happens inside The Press Room, that Bangs Avenue bandbar/ beergarden (co-owned by Brooks) which, in its comparatively short life, has been blessed with a video shoot AND an impromptu set by the Boss; hosted musical acts of every conceivable stripe, and received some decidely rah-rah writeups in every intelligencer from here to — just this past weekend — the New York Times (this after naming itself in memory of the building’s long-departed tenant, the Asbury Park Press).
You remember Hedwig — the glam-rock guignol (with songs by Stephen Trask, and book by original star John Cameron Mitchell) about an “internationally ignored” East German superstar wannabe, whose bollixed sex change (leaving her with that titular “angry inch” of flesh and an entirely appropriate name for her backing band), and stalker-grade obsession with backstabbing rockstar Tommy Gnosis leads to tragedy, frustration and an epic monologue punctuated by songs like “The Origin of Love,” “Angry Inch” and “Wig in a Box.”
The 9pm Thursday opening night will be a sit-down affair at The Press Room (as are the 8pm performances on Friday and Saturday), with tableside seating for 89 officially SOLD OUT all three nights as we post this (although a very limited number of bar-seating admissions may be available for $20). That’s just dandy all around, but that’s not what’s making this production of Hedwig so unique in how it’s being put in front of the public — that would be the fact that the dynamic downtown nitespot will also be hosting Hedwig for two standing-room-only midnight shows on Friday and Saturday; a move that we applaud as a savvy fusion of the rock-musical experience with the rock-bar clientele that tends to live life on a later schedule than your typical first-nighter.