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Nights like this: Being Hedwig in Atlanta

Sharp-tongued Hedwig and the Angry Inch is ready to rock Atlanta. Meet the star bringing the Broadway smash to life.

By Matthew Holley

Everyone’s favorite German transgender rocker Hedwig Robinson has been around for 23 years, insulting, delighting and electrifying audiences to her broken messy heart’s delight.

Hedwig first made her debut at the legendary drag-punk New York club Squeezebox in 1994, brought to life by her creator John Cameron Mitchell, who went on to play her in the movie version. Since then, the power-house, erratic rock star has been embodied by quite a few big names, oh so willingly ready to step into Hedwig’s larger than life sized boots. They include Neil Patrick Harris, Michael C. Hall and Darren Criss, just to name a few.

Hedwig finds another worthy and rightful stage partner in one Euan Morton, the Scottish actor/singer known for his portrayal of Boy George in the critically acclaimed Taboo. He talks to us about bending and blending genders on Broadway.

After a thrilling run and uncanny resemblance to the Culture Club singer, Morton was constantly advised that he must take on Hedwig at some point in his career. A few years, several roles and two albums later, Morton decided to don the wig and lipstick for Broadway’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch Tour, launching last fall.

Rave reviews began pouring in, and now Hedwig and Morton make their Atlanta debut at the Fox Theatre for a two-night run on April 4 and 5. In anticipation of seeing Hedwig work the Fox stage, David Atlanta caught up with the Tony-nominated star, ready to unleash his deepest role yet.

Hedwig is such a blockbuster, how does it feel to take on the role?
Hedwig is the best thing I have done. I have learned so much from Hedwig. And not even as a performer, but as a person as well. She has taught me to really dig down and be fearless.

You know, she’s not really beautiful, but she’s not all ugliness either. She is a mixture of masculine and feminine, beauty and ugly, and all that is in between. She is happy, sad, angry, depressed but so strong. I am fortunate she allows me to share the stage.

What is different about your Hedwig than previous incarnations?
You know, she is not my Hedwig at all, she is Hedwig’s Hedwig. Once she takes over, she is in control. She is to the audience and everyone what they need her to be.

She is universal and really makes you stop and think about love, life and struggle. She asks those questions we might be afraid to ask. And that’s why she is everyone’s Hedwig. 

Hannah Corneau, who plays Hedwig’s male partner Yitzhak, speaks so highly of you.
Touring with Hannah has been an absolute dream. Hannah is so sweet and so pure. She is an unbelievably talented actress.

What I love about Hannah is that she is so untainted by this industry, which can easily make or break a person. There is no one I’d rather have as my partner in crime every night.

When Hedwig jumps off stage, how do you choose who gets the lucky audience member for one-on-one time?
Honestly, I don’t really choose or have any preconceived plan. Hedwig knows what she wants and who she wants.

Gosh, one night in Denver she completely surprised me. An older gentleman who was in his nineties was sitting in the front row. When I left the stage I walked right up to him and thought, “Oh god, I picked a ninety-year-old.” Before I knew it, I just made out with him.

Afterwards I was worried about his reaction, but I looked back and he was so thrilled. He got really into it too. He was so open and wide-eyed and thrilled by that experience. And that is what Hedwig is all about. She shows you, you shouldn’t judge and always keep yourself open to new experiences.

Do you think Hedwig can help bridge the gap in our divided country?
I am so happy, yet quite bemused, to be living in the United States and performing Hedwig all across the country during this time. Since Trump’s election, it has been hard to live in New York City. When we travel to those little pockets of America, I get a glimpse of who his supporters are and why they elected him.

That is why I feel fortunate to be playing Hedwig. She has been through all of this before. Therefore, when those people, say in Durham, North Carolina, come check out the show but are shocked and even leave when they see what Hedwig is about, I hope they take a second to understand she is not just a transgender singer. She is a person who has all the same emotions you do.

If everyone stopped and listened to those big questions we are afraid to ask that Hedwig isn’t, we would be in a much better place. She straddles the divide; she is just waiting for all of us to catch up with her.

Euan Morton stars in Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Fox Theatre April 4 and 5. foxtheatre.org.

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