The term “rock musical” is an oxymoron, like “Justice Scalia.” But Northwestern Alum John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask’s “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” works harder than James Brown to breathe life into the formula.
East German Hansel endures a botched gender reassignment surgery in order to follow his American GI lover Stateside, leaving him with the titular “angry inch.” Divorced, “Hedwig” embarks on musical collaboration with a lover who takes their (uncredited) work to the top of the charts.
Nick Garrison hits all the right comedic and musical notes; he handled the inevitable opening-night glitches with aplomb. His “rock energy” is muted, but ATC’s claustrophobic space doesn’t give him much room to groove; thankfully, his back-up band doesn’t overwhelm the Keith Pitts’ shabby chic set. While some of director PJ Paparelli’s blocking seems clumsy, he drives the pacing. Thanks to Malcolm Ruhl’s musical direction, Hedwig rocks. (Lisa Buscani)
American Theater Company with About Face Theatre, at The American Theater Company, 1909 W. Byron, (773)929-1031. Through May 31.