Hedwig and the Angry Inch is on its first national tour, and it opens in Dallas today. It’s the story of a German, genderqueer rock singer who’s obsessed with becoming a star. Her husband, Yitzhak, an Eastern European drag queen, is the victim of her verbal abuse and jealousy.
The musical opened off-Broadway in 1998, but it wasn’t until 2014 that it saw a Broadway stage. That year it won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical, but closed fairly soon after.
The character of Yitzhak is traditionally played by a woman, and the most notable woman to play him was Lena Hall, who originated the character on Broadway. Hall won the Tony Award for her performance and then was along on the tour for its first two months. In Dallas, the role will be played by Hannah Corneau.
“It’s a huge honor to succeed Lena, but it’s a very individually cerebral task,” Corneau says. She saw Hall play Yitzhak on Broadway, saw her win the Tony, and was very affected by her performance.
Corneau is taking the role very seriously, and relates to Yitzhak’s sensitivity. She is physically smaller in stature than her predecessor, and she says that aided in her decision on how to play Yitzhak.
“He’s a sad clown and he has a very vulnerable, large heart.”
Corneau also relates to Yitzhak as a singer, who functions as Hedwig’s backup for most of the musical. She saw him as unable to suppress his magic.
“That was so inspiring and interesting to me. He is so vibrant, but he suppresses what he loves,” she says. “I don’t see myself in him all the time, but the depths of his soul intrigue me. Going on this journey as him, and with him, has been very fulfilling to me.”
Corneau is a lifelong music lover and singer. A native of upstate New York and graduate of the Musical Theater Program at Syracuse University, Corneau grew up listening to what she calls “normal music”: the Beatles, Joni Mitchell, David Bowie. She didn’t even listen to musicals until college.
She started in community theater at a very young age and continued into college. She now works in regional theaters in Chicago and Washington D.C. Playing Yitzhak and joining this production has been the highlight of her career, she says.
The musical is notable for working in references to current events, and Corneau says this tour is no exception.
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“We make bold statements, but it depends on where we are. Hedwig is a very important show, with universal themes. Wherever we are it seems to resonate with the audience.”
Corneau was in North Carolina at the time of our interview, and said she was surprised that the audiences there weren’t put off by the musical or the current references Hedwig slips in.
“These are just solid, important themes I think everyone can relate to it in some way.”
See Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St., through Sunday, Feb. 12. Tickets are $25 to $170 at attpac.org.