I must confess: I'm no Hedhead. Those die-hard groupies compulsively trail productions of Hedwig and the Angry Inchto different cities, decked out in their trashiest rock 'n' roll attire -- one woman reputedly saw the show more than 450 times. But it's easy to see why John Cameron Mitchell's unapologetically campy musical inspires such rabid devotion.
A brainier Rocky Horror Picture Show, Hedwigtells the tale of a German transvestite whose slipshod sex-change operation leaves her with the "angry inch" of the title. Mitchell (the writer, director, and original star) and composer Stephen Trask developed Hedwigin clubs and gay bars throughout New York. The spectacle premiered off-Broadway in 1998 and became a worldwide phenomenon, spawning a feature film that nabbed both the Best Director and Audience awards at the 2001 Sundance Festival. (It even survived Ally Sheedy's disastrous turn as the transsexual rocker in the 1999 off-Broadway production.) Kevin Cahoon, who starred in engagements in New York, Boston, and Edinburgh, headlines our local dates, and he's got some mighty tall platforms to fill.
Backed by her dynamic rock band the Angry Inch, the gender-bending Fräulein recounts her transmogrification from Hansel, a "girly-boy" looking for a ticket out of East Berlin, to Hedwig, a madcap singer with an ax to grind. Seduced by an American GI and the promise of a free ride to America, Hansel agrees to a sex-change procedure that goes awry. The newly self-invented Hedwig is no longer a man -- but as Britney Spears would say, she's also not a girl, not yet a woman. A year later, she's abandoned by the soldier and begins turning tricks at a Kansas trailer park. There she falls in love with Tommy Gnosis, a nerdy misfit who ditches her after stealing her material and becoming a famous rock star. We meet the "internationally ignored song stylist" as she performs at seafood restaurants and coffee shops, haunting Tommy on his tour.
Admission is $20 for previews, $40 on opening night, and $25-30 for regular admission
The signing and contest start at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 19, at Amoeba Music, 1855 Haight (at Stanyan), S.F.
Admission is free
A curious mix of stand-up, cabaret, musical numbers, and outrageous one-liners, Hedwigis anything but middle-of-the-road. Yet it enjoys mainstream success, a testament to its universal story of unrequited love and betrayal. The production's opening night is an event in and of itself, so dig out your fake eyelashes, Farrah Fawcett wig, and blood-red lipstick. As a bonus, Mitchell and Trask join the local cast at Amoeba Music, to sign DVDs and host a contest for "best rock opera outfit." As Inch's opening line states: "Ladies and gentlemen, whether you like it or not ... Hedwig!"