Produced by: San Jose Stage Company
Directed by: Allison F. Rich
Music direction by: Katie Coleman
Featuring: Keith Pinto, Ashley Garlick
Stage manager: Alicia Lerner
Scenic and lighting design: Michael Palumbo
Costume design: Abra Berman
Sound design: Steve Schoenbeck
Wig and makeup design: Ashley Garlick
When: Previews May 30-June 1; opening night June 2; through July 8, 2018
Where: San Jose Stage, 490 South 1st Street, San Jose
Tickets: $30-$65. Call 408-283-7142, or visit www.thestage.org
Read an interview with Keith Pinto from February 4, 2017
one inch over the line
takes on the transgender, heart-breaking role of 'Hedwig'
Keith Pinto said he loves musical comedies such as "Me and My Girl," in which he recently starred at 42nd Street Moon in San Francisco.
"That was a fantastic show, so great," he said during a recent phone interview. "We had a really strong cast (including Melissa Wolfklain). … I just had a blast. It was an all-star Moon cast, plus some new cast members … on top of that, it was just really fun.
"It's my favorite kind of material to do — farcical, slapstick, zany comedy. It's a really great role. Hopefully, I'll get to do it again."
In "Me and My Girl," which is loved for many reasons, including its many hummable songs, Pinto played Bill Snibson, a coarse Cockney who's been found to be the long-lost Earl of Hareford. But to receive his inheritance, he must polish his behavior to high-class, snobby British ways, and dump his girlfriend, Sally. Romance, zany comedy, a touch of "Pygmalion."
But, in addition to such musical-comedy fare, Pinto also has a very good touch with more outré roles, such as the cynical, sexy Emcee in "Cabaret." He was astounding in that role at Hillbarn Theatre, in early 2017.
But as extreme as was the Emcee, the role Pinto is playing starting with previews on Wednesday is even farther out: The lead role in "Hedwig and the Angry Inch."
Hedwig is a transgender East German would-be rock star whose surgery was botched. What was planned to be a vagina closes up, leaving him/her with a dysfunctional, one-inch mound of flesh between his/her legs.
The story makes for a hard-rocking, emotionally powerful musical, with book by John Cameron Mitchell and music and lyrics by Stephen Trask.
"Hedwig" has a "big following, people who are die-hard fanatics," said Pinto, "which makes me a little nervous. The story speaks to identity, and the freedom to be whatever you want. And that genitalia does not denote gender.
"There is a lot of freedom and power in that. The character is a tragic hero, a tragic figure, who's had some really horrible things happen to him, and who has turned those events into something positive, and a career as a rock singer.
"Hedwig" takes place in a club rock show, with dialog and songs telling the story of Hansel Schmidt, an East German who falls in love with an American G.I. Hansel gets the botched operation in order to follow the soldier to America as his wife.
That relationship doesn't end happily, and Hansel/Hedwig forms a rock band called "The Angry Inch." The show is that band's concert.
Hedwig "really comes a long way in figuring out what she really wants from her own life and herself," Pinto said. "I think that would be something that people are drawn to."
It's a powerful, hard-rocking show, and San Jose Stage Company is very well-suited to staging it. Directing is Allison F. Rich, usually the star on stage, now in her first gig as a director.
"She's doing great," Pinto said. "She's known this piece for a long time, and was in a production of it when back in school. She's always had her eye on it, and has a strong feel for it.
"She knows what she wants, which is great, and makes us feel cared for, in her specificity and understanding of the material. It makes me feel like we have a really great show on our hands."
The rehearsal process has been challenging, Pinto said, "because of me being in a show ('Me and My Girl'), and Ashley Garlick, who is playing Yitzhak (Hedwig's band mate) was in another show, "The Miss Firecracker Contest," at http://www.luckypennynapa.com/ Lucky Penny."
But, "in light of that challenge," Pinto said, "on our second day, we staged the entire show in a five-hour rehearsal" (the actual show does not take that long). "Without Allison being incredibly prepared, that couldn't have happened. The staging, the stuff that happens that needs specific blocking. It was a really great way to start. Since then, we've been ironing out different moments."
Pinto said the show "is amazing. The music is awesome, and fun to sing. It's great rock 'n' roll music, definitely a challenge — I have to think about the longevity of the performance, and not blow it all out in the beginning.
"It's punk rock, glam rock, the most singing I've ever done in a single show. It's a challenge, but a really fun challenge."
The show has a full band, with two guitars, a bass, keyboards and drums. Music director is the very talented, very capable Katie Coleman.
Email John Orr at firstname.lastname@example.org