By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Hedwig is a big hit in Cologne: ”The program is almost like a research paper,“ Mitchell says. ”It has the text of Plato‘s Symposium, Todd Haynes’ glam-rock book, quotations by Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Sid Vicious . . .
“The Holocaust jokes don‘t go over well there. The actors love the silence. But in the end, the audience rises to its feet.”
Boston, however, was a different story, with the show flailing in search of an audience, and losing money.
“That production got away from us,” Trask says. “They put it in a theater twice the size of the one in New York, in a town one-eighth the size. Then they advertised it to the people who would see Annie Get Your Gun. The whole production style was just a bit off. If it had been in a smaller theater, it would have done fine business.”
It was after Boston that Mitchell and Trask learned the importance of the theater’s physical ambiance, and of keeping some level of control in order to keep Hedwig‘s authenticity. Says Mitchell, “The look we have in L.A., we are not going to vary from that, from finding a space [like the Henry Fonda Theater] that has its history, and assimilating that history into the show.”
Has Hedwig become a commodity?
“Hedwig would love to be thought of as a commodity,” says Trask. “That’s the goal she‘s looking for -- she wants to be that commodity. She wants to be an industry success. Part of becoming successful is commodifying yourself.”
Mitchell’s view is more tempered: “I don‘t have fear of the success so much as the compromises that come with it. When the money gets invested, often the investors want control. This was our baby, and basically we turned it over to one person at a time. It’s reached a level that there are larger corporations involved, and it‘s scary to think what they might do to make it work.”
Example: When he performs in Cheater, Trask wears fake-leather pants. But his replacement in L.A. is wearing real-leather pants manufactured by sponsor Hilfiger -- a tiny, metaphoric compromise. “We have no problem with sponsors,” Trask remarks, “so long as people don’t tell us what to do.”
Which may explain why Mitchell is directing the movie for New Line: “They realized we were just too strange for them to give anyone else the $3 million budget. [Because the budget is so modest] the stakes aren‘t that high.”
“So maybe we can make something we’re proud of,” Trask says. “Because of the subject matter, it‘s never going to be Austin Powers.” Adds Mitchell, “I think the show is dense enough to avoid a gross commodification. It’s not like Cats.”
The Boston debacle may have taught them the kind of lesson in integrity that so many producers fail to grasp, that preserving the essence of a show-on-the-rise may look like an artistic decision, but it‘s really a business one.
“If you water it down,” says Trask, “you don’t increase your audience. You only lose your old one.” Hedwig and the Angry Inch is being performed for an indefinite run at the Henry Fonda Theater, 6126 Hollywood Blvd. For information, call (310) 859-2830 or see Calendar.