Origin of Love with John Cameron Mitchell
Sunday, February 15, 2009
The Victoria Theatre
Better than: A fancy dinner, a bouquet of roses, or a giant box of chocolates - unless that box of chocolates looks really, really good in drag.
In the spirit of Valentine's Day, this holiday weekend The Victoria Theatre played host to an actor-cum-director who knows a lot about love, whether it's sexual love, finding the love of your life, or just wading through the love of adoring fans.
John Cameron Mitchell, director and star of culture classic Hedwig and the Angry Inch, appeared in four shows over the last three days: two showings of Hedwig and two of his newer movie, Shortbus. In addition to singing and reading work before each, Mitchell gave live director's commentaries for the last two screenings. The crowd of 400 at the sold out Sunday 8:00 show - who started forming a line for seats outside more than an hour before the show, despite the cold winds and pouring rain - got the best combination: Mitchell singing + Hedwig + commentary = thank you, rock opera gods.
Origin of Love, as the whole combination was dubbed, opened with a performance from singer Connie Champagne (other nights were hosted by Peaches Christ and Anita Cocktail), whose dramatic voice and sequined red dress put a lounge singer spin on some classic Hedwig songs.
Mitchell, with his delicate facial bones and spunk, arrived on stage shortly after to the expected soar of applause. Only that night, reported his accompanying guitarist, he'd lost his voice and could barely talk. Lucky for us, his voice - simple, endearing, and so familiar for those of who've watched Hedwig far too many times - was doing fine. He read poems and a short essay, sung a V-day lullaby, and did rendition of Wicked Little Town and Origin of Love itself. The heart stopper of the night: seeing Mitchell, from the front row, singing, "And then fire shot down from the sky in bolts...!" Overwhelmed, Hedwig fans shed a little tear.
Things got more casual as Mitchell settled in for the director's commentary. Wearing a Mr. Rodgers sweater and slumping into a comfy chair, he used a laser pointer to draw our attention to important details of the film we may have missed: like how the hotel room set always stays the same, or how German gummy bears really do taste different than American ones, or how good his ass looks in just about every scene.
From the stage, Mitchell called out to the audience for questions. A group of know-it-all Hedwig-ites tried to challenge him with their knowledge the way you imagine Trekkies challenge the actors at Star Trek conventions. Still, some great info came out: because his father was in the army, Mitchell had spent a good portion of his childhood in Berlin. He'd also grown up in Junction City. That makes him part Hedwig, part Tommy. Deep stuff - stuff his followers no doubt kept picking his brain about all the way through the Makeout Room afterparty.
Personal Bias: I may not be a know-it-all, but I'm one of those giant Hedwig dorks, the kind that knows every word of the movie by heart and wishes she owned a giant foam Hedwig wig for rocking out.
Random Detail: Apparently Madonna is an asshole, at least according to Mitchell, who says a friend of hers kicked a friend of his and then announced it wasn't a big deal to draw blood from some "silly drag queen." How sweet.
By the Way: Mitchell pointed out that a certain tacky blue tracksuit appears on a number of different actors throughout the film. He and his cast used it as a drinking game: spot the suit, take a shot. You can try, too.