So the John Cameron Mitchell & Stephen Trask rock and roll musical Hedwig and the Anrgy Inch opens May 22 ( previews start May 17 ) at the newly transformed Broadway Theatre, at the corner of Belmont and Broadway. And in the lead role of the eponymous Hedwig is Nick Garrison, fresh from a five-month run as Hedwig in Seattle. Just the other day, mere hours before his flight to Chicago, I had Nick over for a quick catch-up and a cup of tea.
It's a clement spring day, and as spoons tinkle against china, we nibble on 'petit fours' and smile through the bile.
Dominic: So Nicky darling ...
Nick: Yes, sugar britches?
Dominic: Did you see the original New York production of Hedwig?
Nick: I did. I saw both John Cameron Mitchell and Michel Cerveris play the role.
Dominic: Is your Hedwig similar to Mitchell's?
Nick: Rehearsing I tried to make Hedwig my own. This was difficult as John's interpretation was etched into my mind—lines, bits, physical things. Stuff that isn't even in the script, but what he did. But in Seattle we had great proximity to the audience and so some things did change. And for me it's not important that Hedwig is likeable.
Dominic: OO! I love that!
Nick: She must be compelling—indeed, at moments, even sympathetic—but it's more important to me to hold the audiences interest than their hearts.
Dominic: How is Hedwig not just another drag queen?
Nick: She's less self-aware, less self-referential than most drag queens. And though it's definitely a drag performance, it is not a drag show. You see, Hedwig genuinely believes herself to BE a woman. Albeit an unintentional woman. And she truly wears her heart on her fringed sleeve.
Dominic: Don't we all darling?
Nick: Not you, obviously.
Dominic: Someone has to clean up your mess.
Nick: You know what? I'm done with this. I'm leaving.
Dominic: No, no, no, no! Do sit, angel. That's just a low blood sugar reaction I'm having. So sorry. Tell me more about your Hedwig. I mean—cards on the vanity angel: Aren't you just a trifle, 'come se dice in Inglesi?" masculine, to play a male-to-female trans-whatever, extra inch notwithstanding?
Dominic: Darling, it is Chicago, don't forget. Men. We've got to get you some dates.
Nick: Please, it's all I can do to get out of bed in the mornings after the emotional sturm and drang ( not to mention sequin drain ) that is Hedwig.
Dominic: That's what I mean, darling. If we do this right, you need never leave your bed.
Nick: Is that a threat?
Dominic: To quote the sublime Gina Gershon in Showgirls: 'Remember, there's always someone younger than you and prettier than you waiting to push you down the stairs."
Nick: Amen. But which would that make you?
Dominic: Obviously not prettier. Otherwise you'd be interviewing me.
Nick: May I?
Dominic: Sure. What would you like to know?
Nick: Where did you get these 'petit fours'?
Dominic: From a place that apparently cannot discern between milk chocolate and dark chocolate.
Nick: Milk or dark—this Hedwig had better not have another or else the fringe will be flopping in all sorts of directions.
Dominic ( pointing ) : There's the loo, angel. Vomit. So much quicker than a visit to the dressmaker.
Nick: Is THAT how you keep so thin?
Dominic: O darling! I had a Tic-Tac for lunch and I'm about to ex-PLODE. But, back to you. What do you think of this new way I have of doing my hair?
Nick: I guess that depends on whose interest you're seeking. Now Hedwig might suggest a smart faux-hawk to draw attention away from the face.
Dominic: I beg your pardon?
Nick: Cream puff—it's a face MADE for radio.
Dominic: Angel ...
Dominic: How DID we get so gay?
Nick: Fortune, and men's thighs.
Dominic: O, listen to you! Hedwig has made you such a smarty-pants.
Nick: One must rise to the level of this writing. Hedwig really is sharp and fast.
Dominic: Talk about a well-read trannie from Berlin and Junction City.
Nick: You're telling me. When I first read the script I thought Plato was a children's toy.
Dominic: I'm sure he wished he were.
Nick: 'O no you didUNT!"
Dominic: Maybe I did!
( We both laugh. And sip some tea. )
Dominic: With all your experiences—indeed YEARS ...
Nick: Watch it!
Dominic: Well, uhmm, ahh, abundant experience as an actress—what particular technique have you found most useful in rendering Hedwig as a real person?
Nick: It's my latest theory. In any role, merely mispronounce a few, crucial words and the audiences wet themselves.
Dominic: Do you supply panty shields?
Dominic: Yes, Nicky?
Nick: You are one sick mutha'
Dominic: Flower. Muthaflower. That's what you were going to say.
Nick: So Haight-Ashbury.
Dominic: To wrap this up—
Nick: Must we? Finally!
Dominic: What do you hope audiences will take away from your Hedwig, beyond an understanding of her limited pronunciation?
Nick: A healthy coating of my saliva on their faces. When I get excited and emotional I tend to expectorate rather profusely.
Dominic: Thanks for the warning. I'll wear waterproof mascara and a mackintosh.
Nick: Good thinking. Seriously though ...
Dominic: Must we?
Nick: Just for a second'
Dominic: O, okay'
( Long pause as teacups are replenished, and water is added to the pot. )
Nick: What the show says about searching for your other half is truly a universal theme of infinite Beauty that I hope resonates.
( Pause. Sniff. )
Dominic: Kleenex, angel?
Nick: I promised myself I wouldn't do this.
Dominic: No love. You promised me. And actually there's a smidge of puke clinging to your chin.
Nick: How very punk rock. But thanks!
Dominic: O anytime—and Thank YOU!
Hedwig and the Angry Inch: Hedwig Schmidt searches for her missing half, in John Cameron Mitchell's acclaimed rock musical. Previews start May 17, Thurs.-Mon., 8 p.m., Fri. also 11 p.m., thru May 21. Opens Tues, May 22, 8 p.m. Regular run Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Fri.-Sat. also 11 p.m., and Sun., 7 p.m., open run. $19.99-$35, Broadway Thtr, 3175 N Broadway, 773-388-3818