'It changed my life': Two lifelong fans star in 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch'
“I’ve loved this show since I was 13 years old,” says Buddy Novak, who’s currently performing the title role in The Stage Austin’s production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. “I found it as a young queer kid and it changed my life.”
At this point, Novak pauses because their fellow cast and crew members are pointing at them. “Yes, they’re pointing at... I have a tattoo of Hedwig,” Novak admits. “I was first and foremost a fan, and I think that’s informed a lot of my decisions with the role. For better or for worse – I feel like I’m harder on myself than I’ve ever been as an actor. But I think that’s necessary, because this show is so special to so many people that you have to take the utmost care with it and tell it as honestly as possible, even if it’s hard to open up in that way. You have to.”
Hedwig and the Angry Inch tells the story of Hedwig Robinson, a difficult and complicated German genderqueer rock singer. Since its Off-Broadway debut nearly 25 years ago, Hedwig has been something of a cultural phenomenon, seeing a film version and productions in London’s West End (and across the world) before going to Broadway in 2014. So it’s really no surprise that the entirety of this production’s two-person cast grew up loving the show.
“I probably found it at about the same age, as a little queer kid who took a little longer to figure out that they were queer, but has always absolutely adored it.” says Susannah Crowell, who plays Hedwig’s assistant, backup singer, and husband, Yitzhak. “[I] loved all of the songs and everything that these characters can stand for.”
As the show’s musical director, Audrey Barrett has had perhaps an easier time on this production than on other jobs – that’s what happens when the entire cast of a musical spent their formative years singing and memorizing the show’s songs. “We’ve had the not-always-expected joy of the actors know and love the music really well,” Barrett says. “So I’ve gotten to just stay out of their way and support them in perfecting and polishing and bringing [it] to life. But really it’s gotten to be a really collaborative process, which has just been an absolute joy.”
“Oh, first rehearsal we sang through the entire show,” Novak says. “Which, first of all: rude. Yeah, that was a lot. But I think that was such a testament to our love for it and our knowledge of it and also what we were capable of with this show.”
“And I would say it was a little, actually, intimidating,” says director Jeff Hinkle. “Because usually, as a director, there are certain steps you’re going to go through. And we had our first rehearsal and I was like, ‘Oh God, I’m two weeks behind! They’re two weeks ahead of where they’re supposed to be.’ But that’s actually a delight, to be able to sit in rehearsal and go, ‘We’re going to have nothing but productive times.’”
“Buddy and I were messaging, back probably two years ago at this point, on Instagram during the pandemic,” Crowell say. “Just like in our bedrooms literally just looking at these characters, sketching out things, talking about what we love about the show and saying, ‘We should go do this. We should make this happen.’”
“Months later, a year ago as of May, I pitched the show to Jeff and it’s been a process ever since then,” Novak says. “It’s still crazy that it’s even happening because it was just an idea that I had and that Susannah had and now it’s real and we’re doing an interview about it.”