“Hedwig” actors, Christina Leidel (l) and Niko Carleo / Publicity Photos

Actor’s Express Re-visits “Hedwig,” Mitchell Anderson Remounts One-man Show

Over the years, Actor’s Express has staged scores of LGBTQ productions, but one that has been especially popular for them is the landmark “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” Mounted in 2002 and 2008, the musical is now getting a third production as part of the company’s 35th anniversary season.


According to Freddie Ashley, the company’s artistic director, he always thought he’d circle back around to “Hedwig” at some point.


“I feel like the character has become something of an old friend in a way and it’s also a show that is always ready for new exploration,” he said. “Right now, given how conversations about gender and gender expression have evolved, it seemed like a great opportunity to revisit the character in a more contemporary context and see what else there is to unpack, given where we are culturally.”


With lyrics by Stephen Trask and a book by John Cameron Mitchell, who also played the lead role of the titular rock singer seeking love and stardom as former lover Tommy Gnosis has become a sensation, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” debuted off-Broadway in 1998 and the film version came out in 2001. Neil Patrick Harris played the title character when the musical finally landed on Broadway in 2014.


Two performers will play the lead role here: Christina Leidel, seen in the company’s “Lizzie,” and Niko Carleo, featured in Express’ “Heathers” and “Urinetown.” Isa Martinez also stars as Yitzhak. The production is directed by Quinn Xavier Hernandez.


Ashley loved the idea of having rotating Hedwigs.

“One thing that we talked about looking at is unpacking the show differently with two performers of different gender expressions and genders, playing the character in tandem and what that might unlock about the experience of the show and how we encounter the character,” he said.


Carleo came around late to “Hedwig.”


“I only in the last year or so began recognizing as gender queer and the second I started working on the show I allowed myself to listen to the show and experience it,” Carleo said. “It has a bizarre timeless quality to it.”


Leidel remembers when “Hedwig” came out, not knowing exactly how to look at it but now has deep admiration.


“With my own experience of being on the asexuality spectrum it resonates a lot with me in terms of the expectations and categories we try to put ourselves and each other in,” Leidel said. “You are supposed to want this and feel this, or otherwise, what are you? So, I have also come to resonate with the character more as time goes by. And this is the only production, to my knowledge, that has done it this way with splitting Hedwigs equally.”


Like Ashley, Leidel sees the value of having dual Hedwigs.


“It’s been so cool to have that rehearsal process where we can constantly keep observing each other, learning and being inspired by each other,” Leidel said. “In each of our performances, I think the other Hedwig shows up in certain ways.”


For Bucky Motter, this production is a homecoming. Motter played Yitzhak in the former Actor’s Express versions and this time is the musical director, bringing in a wealth of experience.


The musical has become legendary since its bow, especially in the LGBTQ community. According to Ashley, the show is iconic because queer audiences, wherever they land in the spectrum, project many of their own experiences and questions about identity onto Hedwig, and Hedwig becomes this also mythic character.


“I sometimes compare the character of Hedwig to Santa Claus in the way that it’s always there,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who is putting on the suit. The character is what we are ultimately drawn to. Because gender identity is at the heart of the show, Hedwig has become a particular touchstone for the trans community and genderqueer people. The representation has evolved and through it all the show has remained front and center and beloved.”


In 2021, Mitchell Anderson, as he turned 60, staged his one-man show/cabaret “You Better Call Your Mother.” He has brought it back with two performances at Out Front Theatre Company. Known for his Atlanta restaurant, MetroFresh, Anderson was also one of the first celebrities to come out. In the show, he tells stories about his life and career, including his gay character in “Party of Five,” and his own coming-out experience to the world. He also mixes in some great musical numbers. Directed by Courtenay Collins, “You Better Call Your Mother” is well worth checking out.


“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” runs through August 19 at Actor’s Express

“You Better Call Your Mother” runs at Out Front Theatre Company July 29–30