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Andrew Rannells on Stepping into Broadway’s Highest Heels in ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch:’ INTERVIEW

HEDWIG key art NO-TEXT

BY NAVEEN KUMAR

Tony nominated in 2011 for his turn as an eagerly pious missionary in The Book of Mormon, Andrew Rannells returns to Broadway this week playing the glam-rock trans goddess in Hedwig and the Angry Inch for an eight-week run. Earlier this summer, the cult 1998 musical brought home Tony Awards for Best Revival and for performances by Lena Hall and Neil Patrick Harris, whom Rannells replaces in the show.

From his breakout role on Broadway, Rannells, 35, jumped quickly into TV with a recurring role on Girls, where he plays Lena Dunham’s now gay ex-boyfriend. He also went on to star as a young gay dad in Ryan Murphy’s series The New Normal, which ran for one season on NBC.

AR - hedwig1With his career taking off, the star returns to the stage in a role he’s been primed to play since he was a college student in Manhattan. I talked to the actor about his history with Hedwig, his jump to the screen, and Anne Hathaway’s best advice to him for walking in heels.

Naveen Kumar: Your last role on Broadway had you all buttoned up, so this time’s a little different…

Andrew Rannells: [Laughs] Yes! Yes it is.

NK: Are we watching a drag pro or a novice? Tell me about your history with heels—because they are sky high in this show.

AR: Well, I did a production of Hedwig in 2002 in Austin, Texas, at a theatre called the ZACH Theatre. It’s been a long time. This is obviously a very slick production, and there are things that I don’t have to worry about, like in Austin I had to do my own makeup and put on my own wig. On Broadway, there’s a whole staff of amazing designers who do that for you, which takes a lot of the stress away. I just have to show up! So that’s very nice.

The show itself, weirdly even though it was 12 years ago, I still remembered big pieces of it. Songs are a little bit easier to remember, but I was really surprised by the chunks of the script that I remembered, somewhere lodged in the back of my brain.

NK: So, jumping around in heels: not a big deal?

AR: One of the first things they did was give me a pair of rehearsal heels, and I was a little nervous about it because they were like 5-inch high heels.

I had just stared working on the Nancy Myers movie The Intern this summer in New York, and all of my scenes were with Anne Hathaway. I was telling her about it and she said, “You know what? Just don’t think about it. Women don’t think about it. They just put them on and do it.” That was her big advice and it was actually very helpful, because I just thought, I’m not going to stress about this, I’m just going to put them on and see what happens. Knock on wood: I have not fallen yet.

CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...

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WATCH: Trailer for New Documentary On Controversial Gay Jesus Play 'Corpus Christi'

Jesus

"Corpus Christi," Terrence McNally's 1998 play about a gay Jesus Christ, holds a special place in gay theater history not only for its subject matter but for the protests and religious right outrage that the play sparked (and continues to spark) across the country.

A documentary by the same debuted at film festivals a few years back and is now getting a wider home release so that audiences everywhere can get an inside look at how the public controversy affected those who were involved in the play's production. 

Check out the newly released first trailer, AFTER THE JUMP...

Protest

Continue reading "WATCH: Trailer for New Documentary On Controversial Gay Jesus Play 'Corpus Christi'" »


Andrew Rannells Talks to Jimmy Fallon About Taking Over as Hedwig on Broadway: VIDEO

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Andrew Rannells, who is set to take over as East German transgender rock star Hedwig in the Tony Award-winning Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway for a limited 8-week run, sat down with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show on Wednesday night.

Rannells, who is a Broadway veteran having performed in Book of Mormon, Hairspray and Jersey Boys, expressed excitement at taking over the lead role from Neil Patrick Harris. Rannells tells Fallon that he has already performed as Hedwig in an unrelated 2002 production in Austin Texas.

Rannells also talks about perfecting an East German accent for the role, and notes that while that's not going so well, he is becoming good at an Australian accent, particularly if he is required to say the name 'Jennifer Lopez'.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

In other news, Harris is counting the days he has left in Hedwig down on his glittered fingernails.

Wrote Harris on Instagram:

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Oh Hell No!: David Mixner to Perform Benefit Stage Show in NYC

Mixner

LGBT and civil rights activist, author, storyteller, and Towleroad contributor David Mixner will debut a new one-night only one-man show on October 27 at 7 pm at New World Stages in New York City to benefit The Point Foundation, an organization which assists LGBTQ students in achieving their academic and leadership potential.

Mixner's new show, Oh Hell No!, will take as its starting point "personal and public details of his headline-grabbing and history-shaping life" and be accompanied musically by Chris Bolan, Megan Osterhaus, and Tim Jerome.

Event chairs for the evening include Alan Cumming, Robert Desiderio, Herb Hamsher, Judith Light, Ken Mehlman, Rob Smith, Jonathan Stoller, Jorge Valencia, and Edie Windsor. For information on tickets, including Premium Seating with special access to the post-performance VIP reception at Glass House Tavern, please contact Drew Rhodes at (212) 512-5785 or drew@pointfoundation.org.

Photo by Nigel Barker.


New Musical ‘Piece of My Heart: The Bert Berns Story’ Opens Off Broadway: REVIEW

Piece

BY NAVEEN KUMAR

No one can claim a shortage of Broadway musicals about Brill Building artists who became household names—between them, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons (Jersey Boys) and Carole King (Beautiful) have the Baby Boomer market cornered—so it seems fitting that Piece of My Heart, an engaging and surprisingly sexy new musical about lesser-known chart-topping songwriter Bert Berns, opened on a more modest scale Off Broadway Monday, at the Pershing Square Signature Center.

Piece2Writer of ubiquitous ‘60s hits like “Twist and Shout” and “Cry Baby,” Berns didn’t attain the notoriety of some of his peers, perhaps due to his early death from a heart condition at age 38. With two of his children as lead producers, the new musical tells the story of Berns’ career and his surviving family’s conflict over promoting his legacy.

Berns’ daughter Jessie (Leslie Kritzer) is called to New York City by her dad’s old friend and manager Wazzel (Joseph Siravo), warning her that Berns’ catalogue is in danger of being sold off for a lump sum by her mother (Linda Hart). Predictably, in dad’s Brill Building office, Jessie discovers who her father really was, herself by extension, and finally confronts her mother.

Piece4While its underlying plot is only slightly more original than the E! True Hollywood Story blueprint of its Broadway predecessors, Daniel Goldfarb’s book steers the show, rather than taking a backseat to showcasing the songwriter's hits. Instead of a litany of studio sessions or live performances, Berns’ songs are, for the most part, integrated into the musical’s several love stories. And because much of his music is about different stages of love, the formula works quite well.

Playing a relatively unknown, behind-the-scenes artist is a different kind of challenge from playing an icon, and Zak Resnick’s pitch perfect performance proves he has the makings of a star himself. His voice is both sweet and strong, and he manages to bring a modern sort of sex appeal to Berns that’s rare and refreshing to see in a jukebox musical.

Piece3Director-choreographer Denis Jones hints toward the decade of sexual excitement the songs portend, rather than their author’s achy-breaky heart—to fine affect. While dance numbers pay homage to the decade’s musical mix of styles, Jones forgoes nostalgia for originality and brings a carnal energy to songs otherwise known for being saccharine, if not exactly chaste.

Unlike most artists who die young, Berns knows his heart condition will lead to an early death, fueling his drive to succeed. His story (despite being true) is a potential minefield of clichés that the production for the most part successfully avoids. Maybe because its producers have their father’s legacy as their primary concern, Piece of My Heart stays focused on telling Berns’ story and making his songs sound their best, rather than pleasing the crowd—though it does that, too.  

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Follow Naveen Kumar on Twitter: @Mr_NaveenKumar (photos:jenny anderson)


First Look: Andrew Rannells as Hedwig

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Andrew Rannells is set to take over for Neil Patrick Harris next month as Hedwig in the Broadway hit Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Here's a first look at Rannells as the East German transgender rock star.


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