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John Cameron Mitchell on Returning to 'Hedwig': INTERVIEW

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As we revealed earlier today, John Cameron Mitchell will debut in the Broadway production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch on January 21, returning to the role he created Off-Broadway 15 years ago and immortalized in the cult-hit 2001 film. I spoke to Mitchell about stepping back into the show he penned with Stephen Trask, reuniting with fans and the rock-and-roll influences that shaped everyone's favorite trans glam rocker.

Naveen Kumar: What made you decide to do go into the show?

John Cameron Mitchell: Well you know, come on! The production is sitting there and I’ve certainly been thinking about it. I didn’t want to open the show, because it was just way too much pressure and time, and I could barely imagine doing it as long as the superman called Neil Patrick Harris. So, this manageable run, at a time when box office usually dips in January and before my film starts shooting next year, it was sort of a perfect slot. Certainly, it’s been in my mind that’ I’d do once more before I collapse into old age. [Laughs]

NK: So, it’s something you’ve thought about since the planning stages?

John Cameron Mitchell jcm344BW(med) by Nick VogelsonJCM: Years ago when we were thinking about Broadway, I didn’t really want to do a full run and thought maybe I could share it with someone—as they did with Fela!, because it was just so much singing and dancing. We reduced it to seven performances a week—I think Andrew Rannells did one week of eight—but no Hedwig has ever done eight and lived to tell the tale, because it’s way too hard. So, it was the enormity of it that gave me pause.

To be honest, it’s a great excuse to get in shape! [Laughs]

NK: How do you think it will be different for you this time?

JCM: Physically it will be much harder. But, the show is about finding a wholeness, and after 15 years, moving into middle age—you think about wholeness in a different way. In some ways, you are more whole, in other ways you’re more realistic about romance. The myth of ‘The Origin of Love,’ of finding a way to complete yourself—the young version of that is, ‘One person is going to complete me forever and heal the primal rift.’

And then you become a little wiser, even at the end of Hedwig, she’s alone in one way but there’s a kind of wholeness implied, because she’s been through these experiences. She’s the sum of everyone she’s met. You understand that more when you’re older, for better or worse. And, hopefully you’ve made the right choices as to who those people are. Everyone makes mistakes, and they make loving mistakes, which is really the best you can do. You make decisions based on whether you love or hate yourself.

A lot of queer people grew up feeling inferior, hating themselves from a young age, and have to heal themselves. And queer people include straight people who didn’t fit in in terms of gender, trans people, anyone. Your butch mom: She’s queer too, even if she’s straight. So, that’s the Hedwig community and it’s been built up from nothing. Of course there are Rocky Horror fans and rock fans mixed in, but we’re really different.

The people who love Hedwig love it forever, so there’s a responsibility to doing this right and being honest on stage. I’m excited about reuniting with those people—the last 15 years of their lives will inform the show as much as the last 15 years of my own, which has been very peripatetic, exciting and tragic and full. It’s going to be wiser, it’s going to be frayed. It’s not going to be as nervous as when I was a kid. I’m actually nervous about it now—but that ‘s more about how strenuous it is and keeping it together vocally and physically. It’s exciting; I need a kick in the ass right now, and there’s no bigger kick in the ass than Hedwig.

CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...

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John Cameron Mitchell to Play Broadway's 'Hedwig' in January

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John Cameron Mitchell will take over as Hedwig in the Broadway production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch beginning January 21 at the Belasco Theatre, Towleroad can reveal.

Mitchell, who wrote the musical with Stephen Trask, created the role of the East German trans rocker in the show's Off-Broadway debut in 1998, and immortalized Hedwig on screen in the 2001 film he adapted, directed and starred in. His performance at the Jane Street Theatre made him into a downtown star, and the acclaimed film launched him into cult fame, earning him Best Director at Sundance and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor. 

The show's creator will step in at a time when Broadway box office usually dips, giving the show a surge in sales over his eight-week run ending in March, but he said he's been considering returning to the stage since the production geared up last spring. "To be honest, it's a great excuse to get in shape," Mitchell says. "The people who love Hedwig love it forever, so there's a responsibility to doing this right and being honest on stage. I’m excited about reuniting with those people—the last 15 years of their lives will inform the show as much as the last 15 years of my own." We spoke to Mitchell about his experience writing the show, making the hit film and reentering the world of Hedwig next year.

Stay tuned for a revealing Q&A with Mitchell on Towleroad shortly....

The current Broadway production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, directed by Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening, American Idiot) won Best Musical Revival at this year's Tony Awards, and took home awards for its original stars Neil Patrick Harris and Lena Hall. Mitchell will take over for Michael C. Hall, who's been performing the role since October 16 and will depart on January 4. 


Hugh Jackman Goes Fishing for Love in ‘The River’ on Broadway: REVIEW

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BY NAVEEN KUMAR

Watching a fisherman means a lot of waiting around for something to happen. If that fisherman happened to be a strapping, Tony Award-winning movie star like Hugh Jackman, you may be very pleased to do just that. Sitting perched around director Ian Rickson’s intimate production of The River, a poetic but uneventful new play by Jez Butterworth (2011's acclaimed Jerusalem) that opened at Circle in the Square last night, feels a lot like looking at the surface of a stream, knowing the best bits are underneath, just out of reach.

River1To be fair, events do actually take place in The River, but mostly offstage, outside the confines of this remote, rustic cabin (from the actors’ mix of Australian, Irish and British accents, where exactly is unclear), or at another time the audience doesn’t see. The Man, as Jackman’s character is called in the program, has made a habit of bringing his lovers here to share with them his ultimate true love: fly fishing.

Over the course of the drama’s 90 minutes, we witness two such women (played by Cush Jumbo and Laura Donnelly) making this pilgrimage (at different times, of course), their scenes interspersed though their storylines follow the same path. How many women there have been, when they came or which came first remain open questions. We do know that the same tends to happen with each (a moonless, nocturnal trip to the water, fumbling first declarations of love) and that his conversations with them are substantively the same (history repeating, uncannily and with subtly sinister undertones).

River3There is, naturally, much passionate talk about fishing, much of it made to sound very compelling, thanks to a vivid and sensitive performance by Mr. Jackman. If your mind paints pretty pictures, Butterworth’s language has no shortage of superfluous color and detail. The Man’s passion, though, so clearly coursing through his aquatic oratories, is curiously (and conspicuously) absent in his relationships with both women.

Much like the play’s fishing, intimate moments between its characters don’t happen on stage; rather, they are referred to and described in the past tense (“Yesterday in this room after we made love”). Onstage, the pairs hardly touch. (He's an island!) Were their desire electric, this could well be hotter than any show of physical affection, but it isn’t. This can hardly be blamed on the production’s comely actors; both Ms. Jumbo and Ms. Donnelly are fine performers.

If the simplest of the play’s many conceits is (spoiler alert!) the women are the fish—migrating past as the man tries to connect with them—watching as they slip through his fingers is actually less exciting than the rush he describes of hooking and then losing hold of a wild trout. 

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Follow Naveen Kumar on Twitter: @Mr_NaveenKumar (photos: richard termine)


The New 'Into the Woods' Trailer Will Enchant You: VIDEO

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Disney today dropped a mega-trailer for its holiday blockbuster Sondheim-Lapine adaptation Into the Woods starring Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Christine Baranski, Billy Magnussen, Daniel Huttlestone, Tracy Ullman, and Johnny Depp.

And unlike the teaser, this one features singing.

The studio also dropped some character gifs like this one of Streep:

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The film is directed by Rob Marshall and adapted by Lapine and is scheduled for release on Christmas day.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

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See What a 6-Year-Old Theatre Critic Thought of 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch': VIDEO

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Iain is a pint-sized theatre critic with a budding YouTube channel in which he reviews what he sees on Broadway. He has more than three dozen reviews under his belt.

Back in July, Iain posted a video because he was frustrated that he was being told Hedwig and the Angry Inch was not appropriate for children and that he couldn't see it.

Said Iain: "It's so hard to be a six-year-old kid who LOVES theatre!"

Well, someone finally came to their senses and Iain was finally allowed to see Hedwig, which now stars Dexter's Michael C. Hall. Iain posted his review just before Halloween.

So what did this 6-year-old think about a musical about an East German transgender rock star?

Check it out, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "See What a 6-Year-Old Theatre Critic Thought of 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch': VIDEO" »


Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ewan McGregor, Cynthia Nixon Open in ‘The Real Thing’ on Broadway: REVIEW

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BY NAVEEN KUMAR

Equal parts cerebral and sexy, Tom Stoppard’s 1982 play about love, deception and the limits of fiction gets a chic, starry revival from Roundabout Theatre Company at the American Airlines theatre, where it opened on Broadway last night. With ace performances from the cast, director Sam Gold’s production anchors the lofty intellectual tangents of Stoppard’s writing in grounded, emotional drama.

Real thingThe opening scene shows a wife, Charlotte (Cynthia Nixon) returning home from a business trip to her drunk, jealous husband, Max (Josh Hamilton). She’s gone from London to Switzerland without her passport, Max discovers, leading him to conclude she’s cheating. The following scene reveals the first is from a play in which Charlotte and Max are performing—Charlotte is married to the playwright Henry (Ewan McGregor) and Max and his wife Annie (Maggie Gyllenhaal), also an actress, are close friends of the couple.

When Henry and Annie are left alone, we learn they’re having an affair and by the play’s more engrossing second act, the two have left their spouses and married each other. Much of the play is concerned with the nature of romantic love, the fallacy of monogamy and the challenges of writing. Henry is widely accepted as a stand-in for Stoppard as they share many parallels, including Stoppard’s relationship with a married woman, the actress who played Annie in the play’s original production.

Real thing3Making a bold (and impressively verbose) Broadway debut, McGregor does fine work making clear sense of Stoppard’s dense, heady dialogue, and the mischievous charm for which he’s known on-screen perfectly suits gallantly vain Henry. Ms. Gyllenhaal likewise makes a radiant Broadway debut as Annie, her easy sex appeal and unwavering poise a formidable match for her indomitable lover. Nixon, a stage vet who originated the role of Debbie (Charlotte and Henry’s daughter) in the play’s first Broadway production, gives an assured performance as sharp, unflappable Charlotte.

Some 30 years on, Stoppard’s play could easily be set in the present, but the design team’s nod to early 80s London style gives the production its seductive angles and textures, including a dynamic set by David Zinn, enviable costumes by Kaye Voyce and lighting by Mark Barton. 

Music is also central to the play, and Gold brings it to the fore with company sing-alongs during transitions between scenes. The device feels gimmicky in a play already chock-full of myriad ideas, but it's one Henry would probably love. 

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Follow Naveen Kumar on Twitter: @Mr_NaveenKumar (photos: joan marcus)


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