April 12, 2007


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By Heidi Masek hmasek@hippopress.com

If you were to guess why Pirate Stage is producing Hedwig and the Angry Inch, you might wonder if actor Billy Butler’s apparent comfort with performing in drag had something to do with it. Actually, Hedwig is one of the best rock musicals around, said director Brett Mallard. He’s got backup. Time magazine called it “the most exciting rock score written for the theater,” and Rolling Stone ranked it top of the rock musical list.

It has great music and the lyrics do a lot to tell Hedwig’s story, Mallard explained.

“It sounds really deep and involved, but the way it’s written really makes it simple to understand.”

Hedwig (Butler) lives in East Berlin before the Berlin wall is torn down. Unclear about his sexuality, he falls for an American GI who mistakes Hedwig for a woman. The GI falls for Hedwig, and Hedwig gets a sex change operation so they can get married and move to America. But the operation is botched (hence, the angry inch).

“The irony that takes place is when he gets to America, Luther leaves him,” Mallard said. Hedwig finds himself sitting in a Midwestern trailer park as a woman watching the Berlin wall come down on TV. Then Hedwig forms a rock band.

Hedwig’s constant search for his (or her) other half runs throughout the play, drawing from Plato’s Symposium. According to the Greek tale, described in Hedwig’s “Origin of Love” song, people were originally combinations of man and woman, man and man, and woman and woman. The gods got upset and split them apart, hence mankind’s search for the “other half.”

Although Pirate Stage is Nashua- and Manchester-based, Hedwig runs April 17 through April 22 at Muddy River Smoke House in Portsmouth.

“It takes place in seedy bar, so what better place to perform it than in a seedy bar?” Mallard asked. You can order drinks, but be forewarned: Hedwig’s writers left room for improv, so actors might prey on audience antics.

By the way, the other character is Yitzhak, an Eastern European drag queen played by Mallard’s daughter Jennifer. Mallard said the part requires her to work hard, since she’s rather feminine. Jennifer, 22, won best supporting actress in a professional musical at the NH Theatre Awards for a Seacoast Repertory role in Fiddler on the Roof.

A few weeks were devoted to rehearsing the band. Music director Jeff Prescott is on drums, Dylan Gamblin is on keyboards and guitar, and Ken Gray is on lead guitar. Butler plays guitar as well, a departure from the original show.

Pirate Stage leans toward “edgy, less frequently performed” plays, but Hedwig does have precedent in the state, Mallard said. Seacoast Repertory performed it in 2001. Butler was in line for the lead, but it was played by Constantine Maroulis, who has since been an American Idol finalist. Producing Hedwig was first discussed last year between Butler, then starring as Frank N. Furter in The Rocky Horror Show, and Kevin Roberge, Pirate Stage artistic director, Mallard said. Butler won Best Community Actor from the NH Theatre Awards for that role.

“He’s just a great artist, he really knows his craft and he works hard at it,” Mallard said.

Written by John Cameron Mitchell with music and lyrics by Stephen Trask, Hedwig was performed off Broadway in 1998 and won a Village Voice award. The 2001 film version claimed best director and audience awards at Sundance.

NTG does Love, Sex and the IRS
More cross-dressing in a farce appropriate for tax season

While filled with innuendo, Billy Van Zandt and Jane Milmore’s farce Love, Sex and the IRS isn’t as racy as the title suggests, explained director Tim Stanley. The Nashua Theatre Guild chose it because it was well-written and none of the board members could stop laughing while reading the script.

“It’s written in the 1970s, so some of the references are dated but the humor transcends any time frame,” Stanley said. One lie perpetuates another in this play, creating comedic situations “we’ve probably all caught ourselves in,” Stanley said.

Two starving musicians live together in New York. Jon’s been filing their taxes as a married couple to save money since his guy roommate, Leslie, conveniently has a girl’s name, Stanley said. Jon never told Leslie, though. Love, Sex and the IRS picks up when an auditor is about to visit. Jon, played by John Decareau, convinces Leslie, played by Jason Crowell, to dress as a woman to fool the tax man. Leslie’s been having an affair with Jon’s fiancée Kate, who’s played by Caity Glover. Jon’s mother, played by Judi Mitchell, shows up to help with wedding plans and thinks Leslie is quite a homely fiancée. Leslie’s girlfriend, played by Kristin McGregor, shows up. The landlord’s rules against unmarried couples living together factor in. Mike Wood, Chuck Emmons and Al Sprague round out the cast.

Love, Sex and the IRS runs April 19 through April 22, with 8 p.m. shows Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. shows Saturday and Sunday at 14 Court St. Theater in Nashua.

As they’ve done in the past, NTG has given the Humane Society for Greater Nashua tickets to sell. A portion of those proceeds benefit the Humane Society. Tickets cost $12. Visit nashuatheatreguild.org to order tickets, or purchase them at the Humane Society, 24 Ferry Road, Nashua, 889-BARK

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