It’s been 15 years since John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask’s raucous rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch opened at the Jane Street Theatre, and the years don’t seem to have aged it a bit.
Among the creative team preparg Hedwig for its Broadway debut are some people who have been involved with it from the very beginning, as well as some newcomers. All of them are thrilled to get the title character back on her feet and ready to present her story to a whole new crowd. It begins previews March 29 at the Belasco Theatre, starring Neil Patrick Harris as the “internationally ignored song stylist.”
Two veterans are Kevin Adams and Mike Potter, who are responsible for aspects that are crucial to any self-respecting chanteuse — lighting and wigs/makeup, respectively. Both of them worked on the 1999 off-Broadway production, and Potter’s involvement with the piece goes even farther back.
Familiarity hardly means complacency, though. “We’re not going to mess around with her essence, but I have a million ideas about how to make her bigger and better than ever,” Potter says. “I mean, this is Broadway. It has to be spectacular.”
Potter and costume designer Arianne Phillips had ample opportunities to be spectacular when they worked on the 2001 film of Hedwig. That movie had dozens of costume changes, which is a bit harder to pull off on stage – especially when the title character virtually never leaves that stage.
“Having designed five tours for Madonna, who’s the queen of costume changes, it’s definitely a challenge,” says Phillips, who’s currently “working fast and furious on the designs now.” Expect plenty of quick changes and layering, plus a few new wigs.
As a recent initiate into the world of Hedwig, set designer Julian Crouch had some catching up to do. He quickly learned, however, that getting any kind of straight answer about the original form of Hedwig was all but impossible, even with so many of the original participants in the room.
“It’s like family dinner,” says Crouch, best known for his work on the Broadway musical The Addams Family. “Nobody can ever quite remember what it was anyway.”
Crouch is hardly the only new addition. There’s also Neil Patrick Harris himself, who in addition to appearing in three Broadway shows has become a beloved host of the Tony Awards® broadcast. And while Mitchell (the original Hedwig) remains on board as the author of the book, Phillips and the rest of the creative team are excited to see what Harris has to offer.
“Neil will bring all sorts of new ideas and new energy to the piece,” Phillips says.
And if the team is looking for additional suggestions, a whole batch of ideas emerge one night a year. It wasn’t entirely accurate to say that Hedwig hasn’t been seen in New York for 15 years, according to Potter: “I get a lot of pictures of people in Hedwig costumes each Halloween.”