“Hedwig” Is Relentless At Stray Dog Theatre

hedwig-yankee

Hedwig introduces herself in the Stray Dog Theatre production of “Hedwig And The Angry Inch.” Photo: John Lamb

Get ready to bang your head and any other part of your body you care to throw into the mix as Hedwig brings her show to the Tower Grove Abbey and the beat never stops in this 90+ minute journey into a world you’ve probably never seen before and will probably never experience again. “Hedwig And The Angry Inch” had a recent revival on Broadway recently leading Neil Patrick Harris to a Tony and that opened up a litany of performers tackling this most exhausting show for a performer that’s out there.

hedwig-onbar

Hedwig relaxes on the bar- open all night- during “Hedwig And The Angry Inch” at Stray Dog Theatre. Photo: John Lamb

In what has to be the role of a lifetime for actor Michael Baird, he commands the stage, plays into the audience and even interacts with our bartenders who are conspicuously pouring drinks before and during the show on the lower, dead-center level of the unusually high stage at the Abbey. Hedwig reveals his often sad, usually buoyant and always hilarious story as she chats with and roams into the audience. This is a concert at a dive- which is the best Hedwig can do these days. Michael Baird is as natural with the banter as he is with the explosive musical score. This is not only the role of a lifetime but his performance of a lifetime.

As his sidekick and assistant with the performance is the delightful Anna Skidis Vargas. Taking mikes and stools off and on, taking verbal and sometimes physical abuse from Hedwig, she eventually gets to shine in a solo shot after harmonizing with Hedwig in a few numbers throughout the evening. She’s a remarkable performer, fitting perfectly into any role and becomes the perfect foil as well as the equal of Hedwig in several situations.

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Michael Baird as Hedwig and Anna Skidis Vargas as Yitzhak in Stray Dog’s production of “Hedwig And The Angry Inch.” Photo: John Lamb

Also on stage for the evening is the combo known as The Angry Inch (that title and its significance will be explained during the evening) backing up Hedwig. They include musical director and keyboardist, Chris Petersen, A.J. Lane on guitar, M. Kuba on bass and Bob McMahon on drums. Some also double on vocals but mainly they make the Abbey rock with powerful melodies and the beat never stops. Also enjoying the proceedings are those bartenders- Sarajane Alverson and Luke Steingruby on opening night. They keep the libations flowing for both audience and performers.

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Hedwig and The Angry Inch perform as Sarajane Alverson tend bar during “Hedwig And The Angry Inch” at Stray Dog. Photo: John Lamb

Director Justin Been has the feel for this show. He keeps it moving, keeps it real and never lets the mix of drama, comedy and music stop. Tyler Duenow’s lights are a pulsing and driving counterpoint to the wonderful set of platforms and scaffolds designed by Rob Lippert. Adding to the brilliance is the wild costumes of Eileen Engel. Of course, it’s a dream job to costume Hedwig, but her other costumes are a perfect balance to the outrageousness of Hedwig.

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Hedwig emerging from the smoke as Stray Dog Theatre presents “Hedwig And The Angry Inch.” Photo: John Lamb

Stray Dog Theatre has proven that they are the go-to company for rock musicals in the St. Louis area. “Hedwig And The Angry Inch” continues that legacy as this wild, unusual, transgender entertainer does what she does best- entertains. It’s the total package and you’ve just got to be there to experience the power and majesty of this incredible show with Michael Baird as lynchpin in the exotic world of Hedwig. “Hedwig And The Angry Inch” plays at Stray Dog Theatre through April 16th. Give them a call at 314-865-1995 for tickets or more information.

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