Dave Cole

Long story short: ‘Hedwig’ rocks

20 years in, Triangle's lean and direct production starring Dale Johannes brings a landmark musical back to life

Long story short: Hedwig and the Angry Inch has been around for 20 years, has been staged four times in Portland by Triangle Productions, and its once edgy ideas about gender fluidity, social acceptance and self-actualization now seem pretty unremarkable.

All of this is all to the good. So is the fact that the show remains tart and sweet, funny, touching, energetic and a hell of a good time.

Created by librettist John Cameron Mitchell and composer Stephen Trask (Triangle’s playbill lists both book and lyrics as by Mitchell, but other sources, including the show’s official Broadway website, credit the lyrics to Trask), Hedwig is a rock musical that actually rocks, and this version stars a performer — Dale Johannes — who brings the right balance of punch and polish to the vocals.

Dale Johannes as Hedwig. Triangle Productions photo

Johannes struts his stuff here — or, well, maybe it should be struts her stuff, in this case — as Hedwig Robinson, a commercially underachieving rock singer with a snippy attitude, a sharply delineated backstory and a potent blend of resentment and yearning. Hedwig once was Hansel Schmidt, a boy growing up in East Germany, but in order to pass over to the West has undergone an unsuccessful operation, summed up in the most forceful and memorable chorus here: “Six inches forward and five inches back: I got an angry inch!” So, not quite trans. If this were written today, no doubt there’d be some nongendered, or at least nonbinary, pronouns going on, but in this show’s linguistic frame, Hedwig is a she.

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Today in politics: Singing a revolution

As America scrambles toward the presidential election goal line, Lakewood Theatre harks back to the origins with the high-spirited musical "1776"

They were, in a manner of speaking, the original Tea Partiers. A bunch of stridently anti-tax, small-government extremists, they were hell-bent on disrupting the political status quo, wresting control from the capital and expanding local authority. The prevailing powers likely saw them as kooks, cranks and malcontents.

Yet, under that sainted sobriquet “the Founding Fathers,” they are remembered and revered as some of history’s greatest men — passionate, courageous, resourceful, visionary — and among the most influential political thinkers, writers and activist the world has known.

And if we’re to believe the way they’re being portrayed currently at Lakewood Theatre Company, they could sing a little, too.

Foundational harmonizers, from left: Jeremy Sloan (Robert Livingston), Adam Eliott Davis (Thomas Jefferson), Dennis Corwin (Roger Sherman). Triumph Photography

Foundational harmonizers, from left: Jeremy Sloan (Robert Livingston), Adam Eliott Davis (Thomas Jefferson), Dennis Corwin (Roger Sherman). Triumph Photography

1776, the high-spirited musical by composer/lyricist Sherman Edwards and librettist Peter Stone, dramatizes their finest hour. Well, actually, their finest two months, that crucial period from early May to early July in which the Second Continental Congress, against internal odds and long division (or maybe the reverse), approved a resolution to declare the 13 colonies independent of Great Britain, and so launched a new nation upon the tide of history.

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