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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’ comes to the Bing

When artistic director Jeremy Whittington added “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” to Stage Left’s 2022 season, he wasn’t sure where or how they would be able to produce it.

The show, which opens Friday at the Bing Crosby Theater for a one-weekend run, opens on Hedwig (Rio Alberto) – a genderqueer rising rockstar with a tragic past, high on the sudden notoriety she’s received from a scandal involving a former lover and a car crash – just as she’s begun to tell the story of how she came to be who, where and what she is.

Accompanied by her husband Yitzhak (Felix Lewis) and the rest of their band, Hedwig weaves her tale through songs and narrative interludes, in a manner heavily influenced by David Bowie’s androgynous 1970s glam rock style.

With music and lyrics by Stephen Trask and a book by John Cameron Mitchell, “Hedwig” is as much a rock concert as it is a musical, Whittington said. In other words, they would also need room for a rock concert audience. And he knew that Stage Left Theater’s 60-seat theater couldn’t quite fit the bill.

“But I knew something would present itself,” Whittington said.

So, staying optimistic, he went ahead with securing the show rights and called Spokane Ensemble Theatre artistic director Josephine Keefe to discuss the possibility of collaborating. She jumped at the chance.

“I’ve been familiar with the story from the time that I was probably 16 or 17,” Keefe said, explaining how the show has followed her in one way or another ever since. There had been various smaller productions locally over the years, but she’d always wanted to see it done in Spokane in a bigger way.

“So when Jeremy proposed this collaboration to me – I was 100% on board,” she said. “It’s not only just a wonderful story, it’s also provocative and timely … in its essence, it just has a wonderful ending on self worth, self love and acceptance and I think we all could use that messaging right about now.”

With a bit of luck, they were able to lock in a weekend at the Bing and the casting process flowed steadily after.

The show was originally workshopped in dive bars, drag bars, diners and even parking lots before making its way to an off-Broadway production – which this weekend’s show will most closely resemble – and eventually a Broadway revival.

In the beginning, “it was very kind of hodgepodge … influenced by that gritty, grimy underbelly of the music scene,” Alberto said. “I mean, you’re watching someone whose lived experiences mirror those of sex workers, immigrants … people whose sense of family or community or even of escape is something that is rooted in their own need to survive.”

And, Alberto explained, from that comes a story that will make viewers laugh, cry, dance and want to see it all again.

“Come ready to party and rock out and transcend and just enjoy,” Keefe said. “This musical is a celebration … a wonderful piece of theater … and we’re thrilled to bring it to the Bing.”