The acclaimed, awarded Broadway production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch is currently benefitting from addition by subtraction. Neil Patrick Harris is gone, and he's understandably taken some star quality with him, but that's not necessarily a bad development. Currently filling out the wig and heels is Andrew Rannells, who, despite being the original star of the most successful musical in recent memory (The Book of Mormon), is not a huge name--or persona--in his own right. Whereas the awareness that you were watching a star playing a role was inescapable in Harris' interpretation of the "internationally ignored song stylist" who escaped communism and repression with a botched sex change, Rannells burrows deep into the character, wringing layer upon broken layer of meaning from John Cameron Mitchell's still-brilliant score. His voice is perfect--equal parts rock-tinged, poppy, and Broadway-beautiful--and his manner conveys an earthy sexuality that just feels so right for the role. It's a virtuoso performance that captivates the audience (now smaller, but no less fervent in its adoration) for the entire intermissionless performance. Michael Mayer's production and Spencer Liff's choreography remain boring and uninspired, and while Lena Hall is unquestionably excellent as Hedwig's husband/back-up singer Yitzhak, I still don't see it as a Tony-worthy role. Rannells continues as Hedwig through October 12; catch him while he's there.
[Running Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes, without intermission. Rear balcony seats, $37.]