'Hedwig' creator jumps aboard his own show

AP News
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Posted: Feb 13, 2015 10:00 AM
'Hedwig' creator jumps aboard his own show

NEW YORK (AP) — Even the man who helped give birth to "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" learned something about his leading lady this month: Don't take anything about her for granted.

John Cameron Mitchell had stepped into the Tony-winning role he originated in 1998, but injured his knee during the Feb. 7 show and had to take a weeklong break. He called it an "accidental vacation" and will return on Tuesday.

The show — about an East German transsexual seeking love and stardom in a retro glam-rock band — roared onto Broadway last season. Neil Patrick Harris started off the Hedwigs and was replaced by Andrew Rannells and then Michael C. Hall, who has stepped in again while Mitchell recovers.

The Associated Press spoke to Mitchell about the injury and returning to play an old friend.

AP: What happened with your leg?

Mitchell: I basically made a wrong turn. I took the wrong step and the knee went in a little. It's fine, but it's just that I have to have it straight so I've been using a leg brace this week.

AP: Will you incorporate the injury into the show?

Mitchell: Of course. I'll pretend that she got kneecapped by some Broadway rival. I'll be shocked to learn that Sting is being considered a person of interest.

AP: Had you always planned to join the Broadway run?

Mitchell: It was always, 'Why not?' It's sort of teed-up. It wasn't a priority because I've done it. But as I watched the other people and I watched the audiences, I thought, 'It's ready to go. When am I going to do it again if I don't do it in this production? It's the perfect time.'

AP: What happened to make Broadway ready to embrace Hedwig?

Mitchell: Since 'Hedwig' was off-Broadway, rock 'n' roll on Broadway is not such a big deal — look at 'American Idiot' and 'Rock of Ages.' And drag has become a standard for Broadway, as well. It always was in other countries — the West End, Australia, even Canada — but here it was always kind of weird, which is absurd because drag is the most Broadway thing I can think of. Go all the way back to Shakespeare.

AP: When you originally dreamed up Hedwig, not many people encouraged you, right?

Mitchell: Back in the day, I was a traditional actor and my friends were like, 'What are you doing? Sure it's interesting, but it's career suicide. You're demoting yourself by doing drag.' Now it's almost de rigueur.

AP: What's it feel like two decades later to play her?

Mitchell: I'm feeling it more now than I was then. I have nothing to lose. I have nothing to gain except learning. I don't care if I get another acting job. I may have painted myself into a corner in that this is the only thing I ever do. I'm always Hedwig. But it feels freer now.

AP: At 51, are you licking the stage and spitting up on folks as your script requires?

Mitchell: It's a lot messier. To be honest, it's been full of bodily fluids. Certainly sweat, but I've been sick so there have been snot rockets onstage.

AP: Are you still thinking about writing a sequel?

Mitchell: It's in my mind all the time. It could be onstage. It could be a miniseries. It could be both. It would be her now. It would be the second half of her life. The first half is 'Who am I?' The second half is 'I know who I am. There's not much time left.' So death is on her shoulder all the time.

AP: Your relationship with Hedwig has never really ended.

Mitchell: She has her own centrifugal force. If you leave her alone, she grows in odd, rocky soil. And there she is. She's undeniable. But it never feels like a ball and chain. It enabled me to do other things, it introduced me to new people. It was like an incredible personal ad.

AP: What's next for Hedwig?

Mitchell: Maybe the Hedwig Workout video?

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Online: http://hedwigbroadway.com

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Follow Mark Kennedy at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits