Actress Lena Hall played Yitzhak, the stoic husband to Hedwig in the Broadway revival of Hedwig and the Angry Inch for a year, earning a Tony Award for her supporting role. She was the remaining constant as various men left the show. Her four stage wives — Neil Patrick Harris, Andrew Rannells, John Cameron Mitchell and Michael C. Hall – rotated through the production. For the new touring production, which launched on Sunday, October 2nd in San Francisco and stars Darren Criss in the lead, Hall reprises her Yitzhak character. But this time, she will also explore her other half for one show a week when she dons Hedwig’s blonde wig.
That’s right, for the first time in the show’s history, the same person who plays Yitzhak will also play the glam rock heroine (her understudy Shannon Conley plays Yitzhak opposite her during that second show of the night). Speaking by phone from San Francisco, Hall explains that she was reluctant to revisit Yitzhak after her incredible send off that included all her costars, as well as newcomer Criss (Taye Diggs was the final actor to play Hedwig during that Broadway run).
“After being in the background, always longing and pining as Yitzhak, then to get to be the one front and center as Hedwig, is an interesting journey,” Hall says. “To break a casting rule for Hedwig, I thought that was really cool and an honor.”
Hall says she was concerned about whether audiences would be distracted about the storyline – about a “slip of a girly boy from communist East Berlin” who is transformed into a woman after a botched sex change operation – with a woman playing the lead but ultimately thinks the strength of the script allows for multiple interpretations. “There’s a certain thing I can bring to the role that the boys don’t,” Hall says. “They always had to ‘send it up’ and make her gestures much more feminine to bring in this girly quality. I don’t have to worry about that.”
Hall makes her debut as Hedwig during the second show on October 9th after a “warm up” as Yitzhak during the matinee performance but she says playing Hedwig in rehearsal has already added “a million layers” to Yitzhak. “I thought he couldn’t change more after that year of discovery [on Broadway],” she says. “Now, playing Hedwig, it puts a whole different perspective. It’s the other side of myself; it’s such a yin and yang.” But she says her favorite part has also been interpreting Hedwig’s other half, Tommy Gnosis.
She worked with composer Stephen Trask on coming up with a unique sound for rocker Tommy. But people are especially curious about how she will handle the tomato-smashing punk finale that calls for near nudity. “People have asked me about being topless or what I’ll do with my chest,” she says, teasing. “They’re in for a really cool surprise. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this and now that it’s becoming a total reality, it’s kind of mind blowing.”
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