(Above: Adam Goldthwaite is Hedwig in OCT’s production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch; photo courtesy of OCT.)

By Randi Bjornstad

If you’ve been itching to see and hear a rock musical, Oregon Contemporary Theatre offers you a chance with its production of the multiple Tony-award winning production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, onstage at OCT from Oct. 21 through Nov. 6.

The surprises start with the title. No, this is not Harry Potter’s beautiful snowy owl named Hedwig. Nor is it famous German botanist Johann Hedwig or his son, Romanus, the Polish slalom canoeist Grzegorz Hedwig, a famous fountain in Zurich, Switzerland, or 476 Hedwig, a main-belt asteroid.

This Hedwig is a transexual punk rock girl singer from East Berlin, who takes her rock band, the Angry Inch, on a tour of the United States, which helps to explain why, when the first name Hedwig is a feminine name dating from the Old German, the title role here on the Oregon Contemporary Theatre stage is played by Adam Goldthwaite.

Mitchell worked on the Hedwig concept for years, reportedly basing the character on a German woman who had babysat at some point for his family, had married an American, also in the military, and led a dual life, working at night in the sex trade.

In fact, Mitchell told Vanity Fair magazine in 2019 that he had spent years developing the Hedwig persona, including performing the character himself in New York City at the SqueezeBox nightclub, peopled by drag and trans performers.

In 1998, he turned Hedwig and the Angry Inch into an off-Broadway musical, with himself as the writer of the script, or book, with music and lyrics by Stephen Trask. It ran for upwards of two years, and by 2001 Mitchell had recast the story, writing, directing, and starring in the Hedwig movie.

In 2014, an updated version of the off-Broadway musical opened on Broadway, where it won four Tony awards, including Best Revival of a Musical, Best Lighting Design of a Musical, Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Lena Hall), and Best Actor in a Musical (Neil Patrick Harris).

During its Broadway run, there was a bevy of Hedwigs in the cast in addition to Harris, including  Darren Criss, Michael C. Hall, Andrew Rannells, Taye Diggs — and Mitchell himself. The show ran for 507 performances, closing in September 2015.

Hedwig at OCT

OCT’s production of Hedwig is under the guidance of Craig Willis, the theater’s producing artistic director.

The gist of the plot is that Hedwig Schmidt is a gender-fluid rock singer — an “internationally ignored song stylist” who inhabits the body he/she/they do, following a botched sex-change operation, apparently the genesis of the title.

OCT sums up Hedwig as “a funny, powerful story of being yourself, even when the world tries to tear you down.”

This production is a reunion of sorts for Willis and Goldthwaite, who collaborated on a previous version 15 years ago, according to the release announcing the show.

“Returning to Mitchell and Trask’s groundbreaking musical is a joy, especially with Adam Goldthwaite’s unmatched energy and charisma to lead the show,” Willis said. “Hedwig has been pushing boundaries and challenging assumptions for years. Audiences are in for a treat with this powerful, genre-bending production.”

The cast also includes T.A. Nichols as Yitzhak, along with the members of the Angry Inch band, played by Issak Boorstein (guitar), Kelani Larsen (guitar), Josh Manders (keyboard), Jon Sharpy (bass) and Conant Townsend (drums).

The production team includes Delos Leo Erickson as music director, with sound and projection design by Bradley Branam, costumes by DeMara Cabrera, scenic design by Jerry Hooker, and lighting design by Riley Allen, who also is the production stage manager.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch at OCT

When: 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 21-22, 27-29, and Nov. 3-6; and matinees at 2 p.m. on Oct. 3o and Nov. 6

Where: Oregon Contemporary Theatre, 194 W. Broadway, Eugene

Tickets: $20 to $44, available online at octheatre.org; purchase assistance or information available at 541-465-1506