Keystone Repertory Theater’s production “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” premiered at The Coney Island Thursday, trailing Broadway’s opening night of the show Tuesday.
According to the Lively Art’s webiste, this award-wining rock musical has taken the world by storm and achieved a cult status in the vein of “The Rocky Horror Show” ever since the original Off-Broadway production in 1999.
The show Thursday night was open to anyone over 18, while admission for the remaining shows will be 21 and over.
Kyle Hawk (senior, musical theater), who plays the main character, explained the complexity of his character.
“Hedwig was actually my character’s mother’s name, so I embody the mother, and a man named Luther, and a man named Tommy, and Hansel, who is my past self,” Hawk said. “This is the first of many confusing answers.”
The hour-long play starts with Hansel, an East German, who falls in love with an American soldier named Luther.
Hansel gets a sex-change operation and takes his mother’s name, Hedwig, to be able to marry Luther.
After a series of emotional events, Hedwig forms a rock band.
The Coney was chosen because it matched the intended space Hedwig would perform in, Hawk said.
“The show itself is just as if this character were a real person giving a rock concert, so my character would’ve had to find the space herself,” Hawk said. “And it could be anywhere from a Ponderosa, banquet hall, a bar – really anywhere that would take her. It’s more authentic to set it in a bar rather than in a theater. And it’s just more fun.”
Nick Hrutkay, the artistic director of Keystone Repertory Theater and director of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” said the musical was written to be flexible.
“In the script, the author, John Cameron Mitchell, stated that the text that is published is at best the recording of an improvisation of one night of the show,” Hrutkay said. “The show changes.”
The Coney’s location fit the bill, he said.
“We wanted to bring theater to the community to hopefully bring more people to campus, and The Coney was a fantastic location for it because of their upstairs,” Hrutkay said. “I love the idea of setting it in that bar setting.”
Tim McQuaide, co-owner of The Coney, said he was excited to get some live entertainment in downtown Indiana.
“We aren’t taking any of the admission fees,” McQuaide said. “Money isn’t our first priority. We just want to host some live entertainment downtown. Young people always complain that there isn’t anything to do in Indiana. Well, here’s something.”
McQuaide said he believes the show will be a success and is excited to host more of them in the future.
“This is a cabaret-style event,” McQuaide said. “It’s 21-and-over all the shows except Thursday, which won’t have any alcohol. The guests can sit back, have a cocktail and watch live entertainment. It’ll have something for everyone.”
Audience members should come ready to enjoy the night and feel free to be swept away, Hawk said.
“People are going to be at little tables, so I can go interact with them, and they can interact with each other during the show,” he said. “It’s a more relaxed setting than people just sitting in chairs, you know, watching and not talking and maybe not enjoying as much for a show like this.”
A costume contest will be held before every show, so the show’s followers – called Hed-Heads – can get more into it.
“We’re giving away gift cards to restaurants in town and other prizes, so please come dressed in drag. Come dressed as Hedwig,” Hrutkay said. “We’ll do the costume contest before the show. Any Hed-Heads out there, you should know what to do.”
The show involves a lot of audience participation and interaction. Audience members will even be able to come on stage.
“There’s a song called ‘Sugar Daddy’ where we bring somebody up into the Sugar Daddy seat, and Hedwig dances with the Sugar Daddy,” Hrutkay said.
According to Hrutkay, one of the main reasons he chose “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” was because it has real-life relevance.
“Whenever I choose shows for our season,” he said, “I like to choose shows that we can connect to things that are going on, whether it’s politically, or socially, and also entertainment-wise, because I think that the themes of the show carry a lot over to what’s going on with LGBTQ rights, and also with how gay marriage is being handled and just all of those different things.”
Another reason it was chosen is that the complexity and underlying themes of the musical are relatable to everyone.
The themes in the show include gender identity, love, loss, betrayal, self-doubt and self-denial, Hawk said.
“I think even though most people can’t relate to the very specific situation that this character’s in, they can relate to at least one of the underlying themes,” he said. “So it’s kind of universal in a very distinct way. It’s a really just unbelievable situation that the character’s put in: how many things have gone wrong, yet still getting up and trying anyway.”
However, at its center, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is a story about self-discovery and the quest to find true love.
“The emotional journey Hedwig takes you on, I think, is unexpected,” Hrutkay said. “The themes and what she says is so relevant, whether you’re gay, straight, bi – whatever your orientation may be. Just as a person, as a human, her journey to find her other half is something that I think everyone can connect to and is the central theme of this piece. That’s what is going to make people really feel for her and connect with her.”
Show times are Friday night at 9 p.m. and midnight and Saturday at midnight.
Tickets can be purchased at the HUB box office and at the door for $10 with an I-card or $14 for regular admission.