Hedwig and the Angry Inch is available now on Criterion Collection blu-ray.
Hedwig has had a tough life, from growing up gay in East Berlin to sleeping in his mother’s oven. But, despite this challenging start, Hedwig has become a force of nature, a singer/songwriter whose band, The Angry Inch, plays in small restaurants and clubs across America, much to the disgust of many local patrons. Hedwig’s songs have found fame, but not, unfortunately, in Hedwig’s hands. Instead, an ex-lover named Tommy Gnosis uses Hedwig’s material to further his rock star career. But can Hedwig finally achieve success? And can love trump hate and deceit as Hedwig tracks down the boy who stole his heart and material?
Celebrating its 21st anniversary this year, Hedwig and the Angry Inch remains one of the finest pop-rock musicals ever produced, its journey from a gay club to the New York stage and finally to the big screen, a unique and fascinating glittery road trip. Here the enduring power of the gay club scene gives birth to a host of characters who are now part of the modern zeitgeist.
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Hedwig began life in the imaginations of broadway star John Cameron Mitchell and composer and songwriter Stephen Trask during a random meeting on a domestic flight. Here their fabulous creation was rooted in the drag queen culture of New York’s nightlife and the emergence of a new queer punk rock scene. As they began to form the outline of what would become Hedwig and the Angry Inch, they took their vision to the stage at Squeezebox, a club that embodied gay rock n roll, queer punk and drag.
Squeezebox was the perfect place to slowly develop Hedwig’s character as John Cameron Mitchell’s nightly performance began to draw in big crowds. It wasn’t long before the story of Hedwig and the Angry Inch had become a part of Squeezebox culture, and it was clear a larger stage beckoned. But how do you find the finance to achieve the jump from club culture to broadway?
Crowdfunding came to the rescue, with Hedwig finally taking to the stage at the Jane Street Theatre, New York, on February 14, 1998. Here its dazzling and humourous rock opera would wow the crowds and achieve cult status. Hedwig and the Angry Inch would tour the UK, Canada, Brazil and Germany before the curtain finally fell in 2000. But did that mean Hedwig’s journey was over? Of course not! John Cameron Mitchell was already working with the Sundance Institute on a potential movie.
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When Hedwig and the Angry Inch arrived onscreen in 2001, it would prove to be just as wild a ride as it was on stage – a glorious, vibrant and devilishly funny movie that revelled in Hedwig’s Squeezebox birth. John Cameron Mitchell is truly electrifying alongside the original New York cast. But, when you add Micheal Pitt as the young rock prodigy Tommy Gnosis and the animation of Emily Hubley, Hedwig and the Angry Inch takes pleasure and pride in bringing its unique, colourful and vibrant world to the screen. Here Hedwig’s sheer brilliance, queer joy, and dazzling energy carved a place in cinematic history, alongside all those musicals that dared to be different, from Rocky Horror to All That Jazz and Cabaret.
So, what are you waiting for? Pour yourself a drink, get together with friends and visit Hedwig’s wild world. And if you have seen it before, why not embark on the adventure again. Because while it may be twenty-one, Hedwig and the Angry Inch is still as fresh, creative and funny as the day it premiered.