Nelson thespian Sydney Black has been attempting to mount an ambitious co-production of the musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch for years, and now with the assistance of Selkirk College the show is a few months away from becoming a reality.
With Bessie Wapp recently cast as the lead, the six-person show will be the first ever theatrical performance at the Shambhala Music & Performance Hall. It will run for three weekends in February before heading to the Key City Theatre in Cranbrook for one night on March 7.
“Syd and I have been working together in bands on and off for years, in a variety of projects. She came to me and said she was interested in doing a musical, and having me be a part of that. She mentioned she wanted to do Hedwig, but I didn’t know anything about it. I hadn’t heard of it,” said Darren Mahe, the coordinator of the music program at Selkirk.
Once he discovered the show, he jumped at the opportunity.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch tells the story of a fictional rock and roll band fronted by an East German singer who survived a botched sex change operation. The role has recently been played by A-list stars such as Neil Patrick Harris and Michael C. Hall.
The most enticing part of mounting the show for Mahe, he said, was that it will give his students an opportunity to perform in a professional context.
“Most of the students coming in here have not had a lot of real experience outside playing in their bedroom or jamming in the basement with friends. They have little experience, gig-wise, and very few have an opportunity to do a musical like this,” he said.
This week they cast their three musicians: piano player Amanda Cawley, drummer Leonard Pallerstein and guitarist Brennan Buglioni.
“The auditions were great. We had an incredible amount of talent show up. They were very connective on stage with each other, as well as with me while I was auditioning them. They’re super keen,” said Black.
Black said the trio were picked for their ability to act while playing their instruments. The four-person band (with Mahe on bass) will be onstage and in costume for the entire show, and are required to engage with and react to Hedwig over the course of the show.
“As far as the individual parts go, they’re not super challenging. The challenge with this show is being a part of the cast. We have to spend energy learning our parts, but we also have to be acting simultaneously,” said Mahe.
And though the vast majority of the show features Wapp onstage alone, Black also makes appearances as Hedwig’s Croation husband Yitzhak.
“I’m essentially her roadie. I cater to every whim Hedwig has. I’m also her backup vocalist, but I have like 15 lines. There’s very, very little of me in this show. This show is Bessie Wapp.”
Black said she couldn’t be more thrilled about finding their lead.
“She came in and auditioned for Chicago last year and I wept, but unfortunately there wasn’t a role that suited her at the time,” she said. “But she’s such a force. She’s done phenomenal one-woman shows before. We are so incredibly lucky to have her.”
Proceeds from the show will go towards future collaborations. There will also be a scholarship fund set up as a legacy.
Nelson shows will take place February 12-14, 19-21 and 26-28 at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets will go on sale in mid-December through the Capitol Theatre. For more information visit capitoltheatre.bc.ca