American Stage’s multi-venue ‘Hedwig’ rocks St. Petersburg

Maybe you’ve been rocking out to “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” since 1998, when the musical opened Off-Broadway, or maybe you discovered the queer classic through its 2001 film of the same name.

You may have even found the show through its 2014 Broadway run, where it won the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical and more, or through a local production. But you’ve never seen “Hedwig” like this.

American Stage’s “Hedwig” opened May 15 and plays through June 9 before closing with a concert-style run at Jannus Live June 13-16. They said in a press release last month that for each iteration, Tampa Bay should “get ready to rock.”

“Welcome to a euphoric night on a rock ‘n’ roll rollercoaster with our transgender icon and protagonist, Hedwig,” they officially describe the show. “Powered by a live band, epic rock music and hard-hitting lyrics, this darkly humorous self-love story explores gender identity, acceptance and the freedom to be whoever you want to be [and] will leave you begging for more.”

Matthew McGloin makes his American Stage debut as Hedwig, which the LGBTQ+ entertainer calls a dream role. He describes the show as “one evening with this very specific, exciting, tragic hero and comedian who grew up on the other side of the Berlin Wall and is a queer fairy who has been wounded. She is exploring that wound before your eyes — mostly making you laugh, and sometimes the opposite.”

His introduction to “Hedwig” was through the film, which was adapted and directed by star John Cameron Mitchell who also wrote the original musical’s book. The entertainer went on to reprise the role for its revival, winning a 2015 Tony Award.

“It had such an impact on me for many reasons,” McGloin says of the movie. “I was going through a heartbreak at the time and it was really raw, so to watch Hedwig navigate pain so publicly just felt like a cheese grater to my heart. I could relate.

“I was also still figuring out how to be gay,” he continues. “I had some friends that had come into my life who really blew my mind in a beautiful way about how to be an open emotional being and how being gay is part and parcel of that. ‘Hedwig’ explores that as well, so I was just knocked in the face by that movie.”

The New York-based actor also saw the Broadway revival with Neil Patrick Harris, who won the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical, and saw Mitchell return after that. These iterations and his own experiences have informed his take on the character.

“I feel connected to Hedwig because both sides of her coin, so to speak, deeply resonate with me: she is wickedly funny and wants everyone around her to join in the fun, while she is also vulnerable, a bit lost, and willing to bleed out her story in front of others,” McGloin says.

The show’s unique take on musical theater is something the entire cast and crew appreciates. The “Hedwig” rock team also includes Elijah Pafumi and Clarke Jacobson on guitars, Aaron Collins on keyboard, Jeremiah Pafumi on drums and Rick Nolting on electric bass. K Chinthana Sotakoun plays Hedwig’s assistant, backup singer and husband Yitzhak.

“We do a song and we play with it,” they shared during the team’s rehearsal process. “You don’t learn it necessarily to the page. We just do what feels right, lock that in and then we do a little bit of blocking around the song and then things can change.”

“That has to be the spirit in the room, that super playfulness,” Director Kirsten Kelly added. “But you have to be met with actors and singers who are incredible storytellers who have incredible skill — and [McGloin and Sotakoun] just blew me away.”

McGloin says working with the show’s cast and crew has been “healthy, joyful and scary.”

“I think there is a mutual recognition among everyone that what we all have in our hands is this beautiful piece of art,” he explains. “We want to do it justice. [Sotakoun] has a razor-sharp intellect and passion that’s bringing so many good points to the story — and to be led by Kristen Kelly, I feel like my idea of the show is being pushed to be more encompassing, to include more nuance and to embrace more of the difficulty of the show. It’s such a challenge and a gift.”

The actor also praises Musical Director Ethan Deppe’s approach. He likens his work on the production to Mitchell’s original take.

“‘Hedwig’ is considered too rock ‘n’ roll for the musical theater crowd and too queer for the rock crowd,” McGloin says. “I think it’s why people just love it, and he’s coming at it from that rock ‘n’ roll world. There has been so much stimulation, artistically and emotionally.”

It’s something he thinks LGBTQ+ audiences will appreciate, particularly leading up to and during Pride month.

“I think ‘Hedwig’ is dancing the dance of what it is to be alive and different,” he says. “What ‘Hedwig’ is saying, universally, is that the thing that makes you odd — or queer, in every sense of the word — is not only an essential part of you, it’s something to be celebrated. That’s what Pride is about.

“My hope is that when people see this show that maybe in Hedwig, you’ll see yourself. Maybe you’ll be reminded of something you forgot or maybe there will be something new,” McGloin adds. “I hope that people come to see it and that they have an open heart more than anything, the same way that Hedwig does. Because then we can have a good fucking time.”

“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” plays at American Stage through June 9 and June 13-16 at Jannus Live. For more information, visit

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