December 21, 2014 was the one-year anniversary of Nelson singer Pat Henman’s release from the hospital after surviving a horrific head-on collision with her daughter Maia. And though her recovery is not yet complete, Henman has already signed on to direct the upcoming production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
“I’m extremely happy to be able to do this. I’ve been needing to do something. I’ve been recovering, I’m still recovering, but being able to just work for a couple hours a day using my mind has been amazing. I think it’s going to help me slowly get back into life’s game again,” she said.
Henman will be working with this year’s cultural ambassador Bessie Wapp, who has been cast in the lead role of Hedwig, an East German singer who has survived a botched sex change operation.
Henman said she’s thrilled with her casting decision.
“I’ve worked with Bessie on several projects. She has this amazing voice, a huge range, and because the role of Hedwig is so complex vocally it was important that she had that. Bessie is a trained musician, and we felt she could cover all the different bases,” she said.
“The other part is, as an actress, we’re asking her to play this extremely complex character. And there are themes in this that your average 20-year-old wouldn’t be able to grasp. Hedwig is a very complicated person and she’s got the depth, the experience to get that.”
The musical is the first ever theatrical performance at Shambhala Hall, and is the result of a collaboration between Selkirk College and Black Productions.
The cast will be joined by student musicians who will play Hedwig’s band, the Angry Inch.
“I think that’s a great thing that happened. It’s like smart, really smart! We’re getting musicians who are raw but dying to learn. Why not use them? We’ve got this amazing contemporary music program up here. These guys are going to get tons of experience working with professionals,” she said.
Recently Henman and Sydney Black cast their three musicians: piano player Amanda Cawley, drummer Leonard Pallerstein and guitarist Brennan Buglioni.
“What we were looking for was people who could react to what Hedwig gave them. So at the auditions Sydney was pretending to be Hedwig and we were trying to see who would react. Those three got it right away,” she said.
Henman said she’s been fascinated by some of the thematic elements that have become apparent while researching the script. She recently was researching the Berlin Wall.
“Because Hedwig is from Berlin, there’s a lot of references to it. I had to go back and do research on why it was built, trying to figuring what is the comparison Hedwig is using when she says she’s the Berlin Wall. I have to find the significance of these references,” she said.
And though the show is lots of fun, it also features a moral element.
“It’s a rock show, but there’s also a great message in there. It’s about sexual identity, that’s a big one. There’s also a big part about religion. Already I’ve sent Bessie notes saying ‘I want you to look at the whole Christ thing that’s going on’. There are a lot of religious overtones,” she said.
“Music is a big deal, obviously, because she wants to be a rockstar. And love is a huge theme in all this. As we’re rehearsing now we’re going to talk about all these different themes and how they relate to Hedwig,” she said.
Henman’s husband Larry Vezina said he’s thrilled to see his wife back at work.
“I see it as the best medicine for Pat. I know her passion for theatre, I’ve lived with it for years. It’s part of her daily life and the accident took that away. But this is the best medicine,” he said.
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 are on sale through the Capitol Theatre. For more information visit capitoltheatre.bc.ca.