You know you're in for a wild ride with Neil Patrick Harris, even before the house lights go down in the Belasco Theatre on Broadway. The eerie blue lighting, and richly junky (in all the best ways) set, visible when you enter the theater, immediately evokes an otherworldliness that hints at the fantastical chaos to come.
Then, for 100 minutes, and much to the audience's delight, Neil Patrick Harris holds court as Hedwig, a tragicomic transgender singer/performer, with a penchant for outrageous wigs and elaborate costumes. But underneath the garish glam is a tortured soul; and Harris moves so seamlessly between "anything for a shock" rocker and heartbreaking child-adult, that it took my breath (and heart) away.
And as his "husband," Yitzhak, Lena Hall, is brilliantly, but silently (except when she sings), expressive and supremely convincing in full male drag. I became a huge fan of Lena's when I first saw her in Boston's American Repertory Theater production of Prometheus Bound, in 2011, and again as Nicola in the original cast of the Tony-winning musical Kinky Boots. I make a point of trying not to know too much about the details of a show before I've seen it for the first time, so despite knowing she was in the cast of Hedwig, I stared at her (as him) for a good part of the show not realizing it was her. She and NPH make a fabulous team! The photo immediately below is mine, from the final bows, but below that is an official show photo of Yitzhak during the show from the show's website.
The score includes emotional-release anthems like The Angry Inch, Midnight Radio and Wig in a Box, and quiet, melancholy ballads like Hedwig's Lament, and by the end of the show, the audience seems ready to burst with the emotion of it all. So it was no surprise that the stage door was a tightly wound bunch of fans, pushing against the barricades and wielding battling umbrellas trying to avoid the steady rain that was falling. It seems everyone wanted the chance to let the cast know just how much they loved their performances. And that extended to all the actors that emerged: Hedwig's band is called Tits of Clay, and the band members who came out the stage door were a bit hard to distinguish except by their neon hair. They got hearty applause and cheers, but didn't really stop to sign, knowing the crowd was waiting for Lena and Neil:)).
I was extremely fortunate to be the beneficiary of the kindness of a lovely woman and her mom who were standing in front of me at the front of the barricade, both experienced theater-goers (and stage door attendees :)). I owe them for helping me not get crushed, and for making sure I could get my Playbill signed over their shoulders. But most importantly, they shared their umbrella, and I have an undamaged, signed Playbill thanks to them!
I was so happy to see how enthusiastic the crowd was when Lena Hall emerged, nearly unrecognizable out of costume. Her performance is critical to the success of the show, and the fans clearly got that.
Lena looks quite the "girl next door," in street attire, and it made the transformation in male drag on stage even more impressive!
For his part, Neil is remarkably patient, kind, accommodating and good-natured at the stage door. And after a "scorched earth" performance such as required for Hedwig, his pleasantness was amazing! Someone remarked on how cute his young children are, and he mentioned that it was "home to them" that he was heading, and that he was looking forward to seeing them.
While he didn't do individual photos with fans, Neil was more than happy to have folks take photos while he signed. Given the time of night, the weather and the exhaustion he must have been experiencing, I really think he deserves a great deal of credit for making sure he got to everyone who wanted a Playbill signed (he only signed Playbills from Hedwig, by the way), and there were layers of fans in the crowd on both sides of the door.
Raindrops were now falling directly on my head, but I had a huge smile on my face as I left...thanks to Neil Patrick Harris and all involved in the show, for a great evening, all the way around!
Here's a peek at the show from the Hedwig and the Angry Inch Broadway website:
p.s. You may have heard by now that there's another Playbill you might find near your seat at the show...you'll have to look hard and/or ask an usher to point one out, as they're just scattered on the floor of the theater :).
Stage Door Tales
Every stage door has a story.