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Based on the book by actor John Cameron Mitchell, the musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, first produced in 1998, tells the story of genderqueer character Hedwig after undergoing a botched genital reconstruction operation. Set in the American South, the cast sings and dances to the music and lyrics of Stephen Trask.
After becoming a record-breaking off-Broadway hit, the story of Hedwig was made even more famous in a movie adaption, directed and starred in by John Cameron Mitchell himself. The musical first came to Korea in 2005 and ran for nine seasons, putting on some 1,650 shows and boasting a loyal fan base. This year, following in the footsteps of the 2014 Broadway adaptation, the beloved musical is back bigger than ever in Korea as Hedwig: New Makeup.
Like the Broadway adaptation, this version of Hedwig keeps the original storyline intact. And as the word “makeup” implies, the look of the musical has undergone a makeover. The most apparent difference is the size of the venue, as previously, the production was only performed in 400-seat theaters, and this time around the theater has doubled in size. This has some fans wondering if the intimate feeling so unique to this musical will be lost and others wondering what additions will be made to the set. The show will be staged on the set of a hypothetical musical called Junkyard, an additional keyboard will be added to the original four-person band and the music will include contributions from the rock band, YB.
Though one could argue that all of these changes are rather minute, the real buzz revolves around the cast. In the past, the musical’s tone and length (usually within 130 mins.) is adjusted to the lead actor. During the 2013 performances of Hedwig, Jo Seung-woo’s show ran for 2 hrs. and 50 mins. This time around, five actors have been picked to play the role of Hedwig, including returning actors Yoon Do-hyun, Jo Seung-woo and Jo Jung-suk and new actors Byun Yo-han and Jung Moon-sung.
John Cameron Mitchell has often recalled fondly performing here in Seoul, telling Time Out New York: “I did a [Hedwig] concert in Korea for 8,000 screaming girls. I suddenly was Justin Bieber there.”
With expectations so high for Hedwig: New Makeup, we just hope we can recognize Hedwig with its new look.