Driving through Los Angeles, Darren Criss makes mental notes of places he passes that he wants to check out, spots that are new or look intriguing. He’s a self-proclaimed “culture vulture” and seeks out new artistic offerings no matter which city he’s in, but the Northern California native says he has come to feel at home in L.A.
“Having grown up in San Francisco, I kind of had this chip on my shoulder about Los Angeles, and one of the funny things I’ve learned about the tongue-in-cheek cultural disdain that the rest of the country seems to have for L.A. is it’s so misguided,” says the former Glee star. “It’s like nothing but love from L.A.”
Criss will get to know L.A. even better later this fall when he and his costar Lena Hall perform in the monthlong run of Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre.
Criss stars as Hedwig, a transgender rock star who assumes a female persona in order to marry an American man and escape East Berlin. The ahead-of-its-time musical opened Off Broadway in 1998 and had its first Broadway run (during which Criss also starred as Hedwig for a time) in 2014, winning the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. The national tour kicks off in October in San Francisco before moving to L.A. in November, and Criss says Angelenos will be treated to unique performances.
“The show is meant to shift and change based on the current sociopolitical climate,” explains Criss, adding that it is also influenced by the particular cities in which it’s staged. “In light of it being November [Editor’s note: i.e., election month], I think L.A. is definitely going to see a very interesting performance from Hedwig.”
There are other aspects at play, too. The tour comes at a time when Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox are household names and transgender rights are a hot topic in the U.S. The story of a transgender person—or genderqueer person, as Hedwig writer John Cameron Mitchell prefers—carries particular power today.
“I think [Hedwig’s] always been relevant and always been important,” says Criss. “But I think that maybe now our larger society might be more programmed to have it hit home a little better than it has before.”
Beyond the politics, Criss says the David Bowie-inspired music, and the spectacle of it all, will attract audiences of all kinds. For him, it doesn’t matter why people are sitting in their seats as long as they see the show. And he’s certain they won’t regret coming. “If I have to give you the bro answer, it’s really fun, and it’s a fucking great show.”
Hedwig and the Angry Inch plays Nov 2–27 at Pantages Theatre (hollywoodpantages.com). $35–$149.
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