Opening its 14th season with gusto, Oklahoma City Theatre Company presents Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The show boasts a cult following; its inaugural Oklahoma City show was staged in 2001. The leading role of Hedwig has been performed by Matthew Alvin Brown each time.
“When I was living in New York, I would see [playwright and original Hedwig] John Cameron Mitchell in Hedwig almost every weekend. It was like church for me,” said Brown.
A rock musical in its purest form, Hedwig centers on the pursuit of self. Although Brown is a veteran in the role, he still has to work hard.
“Physically, this one is tough. It’s like running as fast as you can for an hour and a half, in drag ... while singing,” he said.
The show is directed by Christopher Castleberry and has a live rock band led by Richard York. Brown co-stars with Renee Anderson.
“I’ve been in so many shows with Matt, but not this,” Anderson said. “I saw him do it over 10 years ago, and I didn’t know what [it was about] at the time. It’s such an honor to come into it now. I find myself just mesmerized by watching him.”
This year, a few tweaks in the production have given the cast, as well as the fans, something to celebrate.
“While we loved our time at The Boom, it’s a nice change of pace to perform in a theater. I think the show has a whole new vibe,” said Brown.
He noted he’s keeping the elements that have drawn audiences for a decade. The mix of old and new elements makes for an exciting show.
“Chris Castleberry has taken the show to a whole new level. Joining forces with Oklahoma City Theatre Company has given the show that added boost of kick-ass. I think it’s the most fully realized production of this show I have been a part of,” Brown said. “The band has never sounded better. Renee Anderson is a vocal beast and she delivers an incredible, restrained performance that will break your heart, in a good way.”
The production provides more than entertainment. It’s packed with a powerful message, advocating support for the LGBT community.
“[It’s about] finding yourself, your own identify and [has] this great music to go along with it,” said Anderson, who plays Yitzhak, Hedwig’s disgruntled husband.
Although Anderson doesn’t have a lot of dialogue, she said the task of portraying the character has been intense.
“This is one of the most challenging roles I think I’ve ever done. I really have to play a guy,” she said. “So it’s been a lot of fun.”
Drag, theater and rock have never been happier together than in Hedwig.
“We have a really incredible production on our hands, and every element has been boosted,” said Brown.