2 min

Inch by inch

Crossing the inner divide

FOUR HANDS NO PENIS? Ted Dykstra steps into the platforms of glam-punk goddess Hedwig. Credit: Xtra files

Hedwig And The Angry Inch is the outrageous rock musical about an East German girly-boy who undergoes a sex-change to escape to the US. The surgery is botched, leaving Hedwig with nothing but an “angry inch” and a great deal of rage and disappointment.

Hedwig goes on tour with her band of Eastern-block refugees. When we catch up with her, she’s performing in the crappiest bar in town while her ex-lover and current nemesis, rock superstar Tommy Gnosis, plays the stadium next door.

The show was created by writer/performer John Cameron Mitchell as a nightclub act at New York City’s legendary rock ‘n’ roll fag bar Squeezebox. As the character took on new dimensions, composer/lyricist Stephen Trask set about writing the music – amazing country-tinged punk rock. The show opened off-Broadway in 1998. With great word-of-mouth and outstanding reviews, Hedwig quickly became a smash hit.

For the Toronto production by Crow’s Theatre, Hedwig is stage veteran Ted Dykstra. “I saw the show in New York two years ago, and I loved the music. I thought it was the best rock music I’ve heard on stage – actually, it’s the only real rock music I’ve heard on stage. Just a great, fun evening in the theatre.

“So I went after the part. I went to [director Jim Millan] and said I really want to play this part. And he looked at me and went, ‘Well… no!'” Dykstra laughs. “So we went and did a drag makeover at Walk On The Wildside. And I think by the end of the day we both knew it was going to work.

“The transformation, for me as a straight guy who’s never done drag, was so complete and altering, it was very exciting. I used to think that when drag queens talked about how freeing it is, that it was a wank – that they were just girly-boys who just wanted to be girls. But it isn’t that at all.

“And in a way, this isn’t even drag – Hedwig doesn’t have a penis or a vagina, and he didn’t even want to become a woman, he was forced into it. There’s a psychology to that, too, that’s interesting.”

Dykstra doesn’t think of Hedwig as a man or a woman. “She’s neither. I think that’s what the play is about. Hedwig represents the Berlin wall. She’s the divide between East and West; male and female. And if you want to tear that down, as the song goes, then you better watch out.

“I think it would be great if people like my mom and dad came to this, saw the show, and realized that inside everyone is a fragile thing that needs to be loved. And that’s an old theme – it’s not a new story. It’s told in King Lear and Hamlet. It gets told over and over again, and Hedwig is just a new way to tell it.”

Dykstra is married to the beautiful Melanie Doane, a real-life rock star. What does she think of Ted in drag? “Melanie likes it a lot. She wants to come to opening night dressed as a man. The thing is, she’s six and a half months pregnant! So we’ll make a pretty interesting pair.”

Hedwig And The Angry Inch.

$19-$35. 8:30pm. Mon-Thu & Sat.

7pm & 10pm. Fri. Beginning Fri, Apr 20.

Bathurst Street Theatre.

736 Bathurst St.

(416) 870-8000.