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Congratulations to Neil Patrick Harris and Creators of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch"
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 06/09/14
Last updated on: 06/09/14
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Neil Patrick Harris as Hedwig.

Congratulations to Neil Patrick Harris and the creators of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which were among the big winners at the Tony Awards, which were presented on June 8, 2014. The Tony Awards this year were spread around, with no production dominating any category, but the triumph of Hedwig and the recognition of Neil Patrick Harris for his extraordinary performance in the title role were highlights of the evening.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch won the Tony for best revival of a musical and Harris won the Tony for best actor in a musical. In addition, Lena Hall won for best featured actress in a musical and Kevin Adams for best lighting design of a musical.

Hedwig is the creation of actor and performance artist John Cameron Mitchell and composer Stephen Trask. After meeting Trask on a plane in 1997, Mitchell invited him to write songs for the character of Hedwig. Mitchell first appeared as this character at a drag punk club in New York City. Combining Trask's songs with his stand-up monologues, Mitchell began to develop the character and create a narrative.

Hedwig originally premiered off-Broadway in 1998 in a production starring Mitchell. The 1998 production was a surprise hit that quickly became known as one of the best rock musicals of all time. It ran for three years at the Jane Street Theater and inspired Mitchell's 2001 film of the same name, which won several awards, including the Sundance Audience Favorite Award.

In the musical, Hedwig is an "internationally ignored song stylist" who has an "angry inch" of vestigial male anatomy as the result of a botched sex change operation. The musical showcases rock tunes written in a range of styles, from pop ballads to punk anthems.

As Greg Varner observes in the glbtq.com entry on Mitchell, "Hedwig is a creature divided. As a boy in East Germany, she was named Hansel. After falling in love with an American soldier, Hansel is persuaded to undergo a sex change operation so that he will be able to marry and leave the country. The operation is botched; as Hedwig later sings, 'My guardian angel fell asleep on the watch. Now all I've got is a Barbie doll crotch--I've got an angry inch.' She tells her story with a liberal sprinkling of humor: 'When I woke up from the operation, I was bleeding down there--from a gash between my legs. It's my first day as a woman, [and] already it's that time of the month.'"

Through music, comedy, and the pathos of her unusual but compelling story, Hedwig challenges prevailing gay norms, which are sometimes codified into rigid orthodoxies, and makes the deeply moral point that even society's outsiders are deserving of love. Stephen Trask's supercharged music and incendiary lyrics for "Freaks" deliver the show's musical manifesto: "We are freaks! We fuck who we please and do what we choose. We're not bad. We're not diseased or confused."

The current revival is a personal triumph for Harris, who brings to the role not only his fame as a television star, beloved for his performances in Doogie Howser, M.D. and How I Met Your Mother, but also his long experience as a musical theater performer in productions such as Rent, Cabaret, and Assassins. His execution of the demanding role of Hedwig has been acclaimed for its fierceness and anger as well as its command of the stage itself.

Below is a trailer for the Broadway revival.

In the following video, made in April 2014 before the play opened, Harris speaks of the challenges he faced in playing Hedwig.

In the video below, Harris performs "Sugar Daddy" at the Tony Awards. During the performance, Harris interacts with the audience and concludes planting a passionate kiss on his husband, David Burtka, who was seated in the first row of Radio City Music Hall.

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