Reviews are in for the latest Broadway revival of John Cameron Mitchell’s glitz-and-glam rock musical “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” starring gay icon Neil Patrick Harris as the title character, an East German singer scorned by a botched sex-change operation. Critics are over-the-moon for the Harris, who’s “beyond fabulous,” and the loud-and-proud direction of Michael Mayer, who helmed the Tony-award-winning Broadway premiere of the smash musical “Spring Awakening.”
“Hedwig,” now in full swing this Spring, began as an off-Broadway oddity in 1998 before writer/director John Cameron Mitchell — recently seen on HBO’s “Girls” — gave the film a second life in his 2001 queer cult film adaptation. Now, “Hedwig” is back onstage, and with a bang thanks to Neil Patrick Harris, one of several Hollywood actors to walk the Broadway boards this year. (Watch clips and behind-the-scenes footage below.)
Here’s what the critics are saying so far:
The New York Times is over the moon for Neil Patrick Harris:
Do not be alarmed by recent reports that Neil Patrick Harris, an irresistibly wholesome television presence, has fallen deeply and helplessly into the gap that separates men from women, East from West, and celebrity from notoriety. There’s no need to fear for his safety, much less his identity. Quite the contrary. Playing an “internationally ignored song stylist” of undefinable gender in”Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” Mr. Harris is in full command of who he is and, most excitingly, what he has become with this performance. That’s a bona fide Broadway star, the kind who can rule an audience with the blink of a sequined eyelid…And while Mr. Harris may let you see him sweat as he struts, slithers and leaps through this shamelessly enjoyable show, rousingly directed by Michael Mayer, he never makes it feel like heavy lifting.
The Hollywood Reporter agrees:
The big question from the start was whether Neil Patrick Harris could sing the hard-driving glam rock-meets-punk score of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” And would the former Doogie Howser be able to go as far out there as the title role of the embittered East German singer with the botched sex-reassignment surgery demands? The swift answer on both counts is that Harris is beyond fabulous, holds nothing back and plays it any way but safe in Michael Mayer’s exhilarating production.
As does Variety:
It’s astonishing how polished a physical performance Harris gives. Channeling his inner Rockette, along with Iggy Pop and Lou Reed by way of the Ramones, he carries off some advanced dance and acrobatic moves, while showing a lot of shapely leg. In “Hedwig’s Lament,” the diva returns to her constant complaint of being cut up into pieces — torn from her true love, from her musical partner, from her divided homeland, from her missing penis, from her beloved wigs. But in Harris’ bravura performance, she manages to integrate about 30 years of rock musical styles. Which ain’t peanuts.
Associated Press chimes in:
It’s obvious from the first moments of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” that star Neil Patrick Harris is doing something special. And it’s not just trying on a new role…Before our eyes, Harris is opening another chapter in his exceptional show business career with this 90-minute show and he simply crushes it, holding nothing back, softening no edges, making no nice…Harris sings with real feeling, whether it’s a torch song on a stool while dressed in a little cocktail dress or rocking out a head-banging tune by attacking the scenery…it will come as no surprise that while Hall has an understudy, Harris does not. And that’s perfectly right: Rarely does a role fit a performer so well. Harris is funny, twisted, poignant, outrageous, bizarre, silly and very, very human.
Today’s more pressing questions, however, include what’s this legendarily subversive little extravaganza involving a botched sex-change operation doing on Broadway and, best of all, how’s Neil Patrick Harris doing in high-heel ankle boots, glitter lipstick and a Farrah Fawcett wig the size of an old Buick?
The pertinent answers are that the unlikely Broadway show and its equally unlikely star are doing splendidly. Harris, who has triumphed in serious musicals, light TV, and award-show hosting, may not be the strongest rock howler who ever sang Stephen Trask’s thrashing, unpredictably touching songs. Nor is Harris, 40, the most effortless dancer to ever climb into the torn fishnets of John Cameron Mitchell’s Obie-winning, transgender diva of a show.