Let’s talk charisma, let’s talk cult following, let’s talk transgression, let’s talk John Cameron Mitchell. For decades, this artist has been at the forefront of queer reverence through performance, with his creation, Hedwig, looked upon by many, as a blinding example of Trans rights, long before this term even formed a part of common language and conversation. With the reception this artist received at Hamer Hall, proof that no matter how much time has passed since Hedwig first appeared Off Broadway, he is still considered a Demi-God among these circles, and rightly so.
As much as this performance was a night of celebration of, not just this character and their cult following, but of life and of experience, it was also tinged with sadness, as it detailed the personal struggle, and the death of his partner; it skirts around, only just touching upon the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, moving boldly into the 90s, and stretching further to the present day. All the numbers that any fan of Hedwig could hope for, are here, though, it was a shame that some of these bigger numbers were dogged by sound issues; in saying this, as a performance it falls short of perfection, not polished enough nor edgy enough either. But it is a show for a die hard fan, and for these types, enough is present for the makings of a captivating work.
The performance remained in a place of strength until it veered away from the story of the performer and of Hedwig, dipping into more recent material, which, unfortunately, came across as less reverent and, perhaps, could be seen as no more than shameless self promotion for current and future projects being undertaken by Mitchell. Similarly, his backup singer at times stole major focus, which detracted even further from what was a less-than-perfect performance.
Musically, though, it is a tight 90-minute show, Mitchell’s band works well together, but some of the magic of cabaret is born from intimacy, and no matter how hard these performers try, this is something which is lost, inevitably, in such a large cavernous space; it is, actually, the antithesis of the punk-rock vibes from which Hedwig was born, but that’s success for you. On the other hand, the electric energy, which ricocheted through the mass of people watching the performance, did add to the whole experience, and to a defiant end, watching Mitchell crowd surf his way across the heaving mass at Hamer Hall, brilliant, and leaving an indelible memory post-performance.