Denver theater audiences are famous for the ease with which they award standing ovations -- a few friends of the cast rising, then a handful more, finally a largish section center front -- while folks further back pick up their belongings and head furtively for the door. That's not how it is at Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The audience is mashed in together for the evening, mesmerized, breathing as one with Nick Sugar's Hedwig, until--at the very end--everyone jumps up as if electrified, arms waving, cheering. It happens every time. So often, in fact, that the Avenue Theater's added an extra performance to its run of the show just to accommodate it.
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Born Hansel, and desperate to escape Communist East Berlin, Hedwig endures a sex change operation so she can marry an American GI. Long ago abandoned by the GI, yearning for her beloved Tommy Gnosis--a rock star who owes his success to her songs--she now tours various sleazy dives, wearing a ghastly blond wig with huge soup-can curls on top. Accompanied by her ambiguously-sexed husband, Yitzak, and her band, The Angry Inch, she ruminates in song and monologue about the nature of love, still trying to figure out just who she is and where she belongs, while performing a slew of fantastic numbers: "The Origin of Love," "Wig in a Box," "Wicked Little Town."
You want to see this raucous, touching, rock-concert-cum-theater piece because the songs are great and so are the musicians, and so is Amanda Earls as Yitzak. You want to go because it's an amazing amount of fun, despite touching on issues of identity at the profoundest level. Most of all, though, you have to catch Sugar's balls-out performance as he goes through his personal cathartic transformation every night from Hansel to Hedwig.
The show plays at the Avenue Theater (417 East 17th Avenue) through the coming weekend, and because the place tends to jam up, even with extra chairs at the sides and back, there's extra show scheduled for Sunday, August 8. For more info, call 303-321-5925.