Ok, I am naturally a procrastinator. My apologies for being so late in posting my review of the two Los Angeles shows I saw. I thought I should post about those shows, since blaykee and I are off to the Pantages to see the Wednesday matinee!
I wanted to make a few general comments about Darren’s performance in the two Los Angeles shows that I saw so far (Thursday night November 3, and Saturday matinee, November 5). Just as when I saw him in Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway, I marvel at how wonderfully Darren sings these amazing songs. He molds his voice to convey various emotions, to capture various tones, singing with rebellious ferocity and power (Tear Me Down), with vivid story-telling tinged with sadness (Origin of Love), with lust and sexiness (Sugar Daddy), with sadness and longing (Wig in a Box, Wicked Little Town), about joyful escape (Wig in a Box), with raw pain, anguish and fury (Hedwig’s Lament, Exquisite Corpse, Angry Inch), with a spirit of reconciliation, apology, and optimism (Wicked Little Town Reprise), and with ardent hope, love and inspiration (Midnight Radio). Darren’s voice is as strong as ever, as powerful and delicate as ever, as adaptive as ever, and most importantly, as passionate and emotional as ever. He rips into the rock songs with just as much ferocity and furious energy as ever. It is a sight to behold and electric to hear. And then he will move you with the more quiet ballads, his voice filled with heartfelt emotion. (And my husband also thought Darren did a wonderful job with his singing, as I said in my earlier comments about these two Los Angeles shows.)
I would also like to note that Darren definitely has perfected his comic timing in the Los Angeles shows that I saw. He seems to allow himself more time to let the jokes land. BTW, my husband is not an easy judge. But he was very pleased to see how funny Darren was and thought his comic timing was spot on.
I remember feeling that Darren’s Hedwig (in the Broadway show that I saw) came across to me as full of anger and pain. And in the Los Angeles shows that I saw, he still portrays Hedwig as angry and wounded, but I feel that now in addition, I also feel more of a sense of Hedwig being tired, worn out by life, worn out by pain and loss, worn out by being feeling so angry and sad, by feeling so hurt and rejected. I still saw pain--raw pain--a fresh wound that still blazed red and loud, but I also saw more scar tissue that thickened over time, more sadness that lingered and stayed.
Hare are a few of my thoughts of some differences I saw in the two Los Angeles performances that I attended, when compared to the Broadway show of HATAI that I saw.
Origin of Love
This is one of my favorite parts of this song: “The last time I saw you, we had just split in two; you were looking at me and I was looking at you. You had a way so familiar, that I could not recognize because you had blood on your face and I had blood in my eyes. But I could swear by your expression, that the pain down in your soul . . . was the same as the one down in mine.” Darren delivered these lyrics with so much emotion, so much more sorrow. He lowered his voice to a more intimate, quiet tone, and slowed it down. I felt Hedwig speaking to this other half, in such an intimate, private manner, conveying the loss of separation. I was moved. For the Broadway show, the prevailing feeling I got from the song performance of OOL was a sense of wonder. Now, the prevailing feeling I got from the OOL song performance in the Los Angeles shows was: A sense of loss, of sadness.
Wicked Little Town
At the Broadway show that I saw, I noticed that a part of the song performance showed Hedwig looking flirtatiously at Tommy in the audience. This time, there seemed to be less of that, and Hedwig appeared more introspective when singing. When Hedwig sang “Lady Luck has led you here,” the painful grimace on her face is more clear.
Wicked Little Town Reprise. In the Broadway show that I saw, this was not my favorite song. It was visually stunning, and I did feel the emotion of Tommy and I heard the emotion in Tommy’s voice. However, in the Broadway version of this song, Darren seemed to try to emulate a punk rock singer like Billy Joe Armstrong. Just speaking for myself, I found it a bit distracting. But the second Los Angeles show was eye-opening. This time, I felt like Darren hit it out of the park in terms of his story–telling, in terms of the way he emphasized certain words or the emotion he put into the song. It just led me to vividly feel how emotional was Tommy’s apology to Hedwig, his acknowledgement of the damage he inflicted on Hedwig, along with the words of hope, of possibilities Tommy was encouraging Hedwig to see in herself. Wicked Little Town Reprise was just exponentially more emotional, more touching in the Los Angeles version, where I felt moved because I felt this was the beginning of Hedwig’s self-acceptance. My husband also remarked how much he felt the emotion in this song (as well as in Wig in a Box, Wicked Little Town, and Midnight Radio).
Immediately after the end of Wicked Little Town Reprise:
I’m of the opinion that after Wicked Little Town Reprise, that the character we see next is a conglomeration of Hedwig/Tommy/Hansel, not just Hedwig.
(Note: Darren had stated in the Giffoni Film Festival, that he feels Tommy and Hedwig are one and the same person, whether Tommy is a real person, or is a figment of Hedwig’s imagination, or is a symbol within her mind of this other person that is a part of Hedwig . Hedwig has these divisions within herself because of her personal turmoil within herself and with others, and when she forgives herself and others, when she makes peace with herself and others, she becomes one person. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yCkmOkTTZI , Point 8:20)
In the Broadway show I saw, and in the first LA show I saw, there was applause after Wicked Little Town Reprise ended. In the second Los Angeles, show I saw, there was no applause after the song ended. Darren’s acting was so powerful, that people became lost in and caught up emotionally just watching Hedwig/Tommy/Hansel struggling to understand who she/he was/is. There was complete silence. People were mesmerized, in a sense, hypnotized, with the magic of this silent scene, with the forcefulness and the artfulness of Darren’s acting. The vivid image I retain in my mind of that scene immediately after the song ended, is of Darren stretching and straining his torso forward, with one arm and hand slowly but with great effort, stretching and reaching toward the audience, the character’s face expressive, emotional, questioning, the character striving to understand, as the character searched for an answer of what has happened, of who was he/she, and who he/she is now. It was powerful, compelling, captivating, moving, simply gorgeous acting. Darren held the audience in the palm of his hand, like a puppet master, controlling the audience with the sheer power of his acting.
After the show, without my prompting, my husband exclaimed what a remarkable scene it was, the scene after that song finished, when Darren was silently acting. My husband asked me if I noticed there was no applause after the song ended, with him noting there was applause after the song in the first Los Angeles show we saw. (Note that I never mentioned this issue with him before, of whether there is or is not any audience applause after WLTR ends.) He stated that Darren was so amazing in his acting, with no words spoken, just with his body language and his facial expressions, that he willed the audience to focus on his character so that the audience was held captive by the power of his acting.
Other differences in general:
--Things that I liked in the Broadway version that I did not notice in the Los Angeles shows: Hedwig was almost limping when stumbling along the back wall during Angry Inch. Also in the scene after Yitzhak spits in Hedwig’s face, Hedwig had this bitter laugh to herself, one that is heartbreaking, just before she began to spiral in Hedwig’s Lament/Exquisite Corpse.
--Hedwig was more mean to Rebecca’s Yitzhak. I distinctly remember Hedwig jabbing Rebecca’s Yitzhak with her finger. R’s Yitzhak was more rebellious, more aggressive, yet it seemed that I saw more tenderness too between Hedwig and R’s Yitzhak. I saw more love/hate w/ Rebecca’s Yitzhak and Hedwig, than with Lena’s Yitzhak and Hedwig, where Lena’s Yitzhak is more guarded, with more walls up, more cool.
In the scene where Hedwig says “the German and the Jew, think of the publicity," Hedwig delivered the lines with more venom with R’s Yitzhak. Again, Hedwig seemed more mean, more physically aggressive with R’s Yitzhak.
--Hedwig’s mother: I loved the different way that Darren played her in the LA shows I saw. In the Broadway show I saw, I remember Darren playing her in a way that I wanted more complexity. She came across as cold and unfeeling, which I know is an important quality of that character. But I saw versions by other actors that showed more to that character. Luther said to Hansel and his mother, “to walk away, you got to leave something behind.” Darren portrayed the reaction of Hedwig’s mother to Luther’s words in a very powerful way. When Hedwig’s mother said “I always thought so,” Darren played Hedwig’s mother with a variety of emotions in her face and voice: She was feeling obvious shock at Luther’s words, along with sorrow and compassion for what her son will have to go through, yet pragmatic acceptance of the necessity of the extreme act that her son will have to endure. Darren did a wonderful job showing the complexity of a minor character with only a few lines in that scene. Her character came across as multi-dimensional and complex in the LA shows I saw.
--The central scene where Hedwig says to Tommy, “that is what I have to work with.” In the Broadway performance of this scene, I felt Hedwig said this line with more resignation; in the Los Angeles shows I saw, she said this with sadness but also with some hope, as if quietly pleading with Tommy to accept her as she is, with her heart being in Tommy’s hands and she is pleading with him to please not crush her heart. I greatly prefer the version in the L.A. show, because it makes Tommy’s rejection of Hedwig that much more powerful.
I agree with Darren that this touring production is tighter than the Broadway show. The Los Angeles shows that I saw brought more emotion to the dramatic scenes. I remember being mesmerized by Darren when I first saw him on Broadway in HATAI. As good as Darren was on Broadway (and I felt he was outstanding), in the Los Angeles shows that I saw of the tour production, I felt his performance was remarkable. His acting has grown stronger. His characterization--not just of Hedwig and Tommy, but also of other characters such as Hedwig's mother--was more powerful, more emotional, more complex. In particular, his acting after Wicked Little Town Reprise, was stunning, unforgettable, spellbinding, again, simply gorgeous. And his comic timing had improved as well. I admire Darren's level of commitment to this beautiful work. I am very proud of him!