Darren Criss Brings 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch' to L.A. for Opening Night at Pantages Theatre

Joan Marcus
Darren Criss in 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch'

"Welcome to the Pantages Theatre, formely the Homo-tages, then the Metro-tages, now the Pantages," said Criss as he kicked off the show's national touring production.

From Hedwig's welcoming words to the hot pink carpet, the opening night of Hedwig and the Angry Inch was a unique affair, with celebrity fans John Stamos, Demi Moore, Max Landis, Margaret Cho, Ross Mathews, Mae Whitman and Vincent Rodriguez III on hand to herald the musical's arrival in L.A. Its opening night took place at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood.

There was a palpable buzz of excitement in the air with many guests, including Parenthood's Whitman, calling the show one of their favorites.

"It's my all-time favorite musical," Cho told The Hollywood Reporter. "I have seen it probably about 80 times all over the world. I actually played Hedwig with [John Cameron Mitchell] at Rockwood in New York."

Hollywood Today Live host Mathews couldn't wait to get inside and find his seat, saying "I know that [Darren Criss] grabs somebody in the front row and makes out with them, so I'm really excited to check my seat to see where I'm sitting. Fingers crossed."

Much of the crowd spoke of their excitement to see Criss, who is known for his breakout performance on Fox’s Glee, take the title role. Riker Lynch, who appeared on Glee as a Warbler alongside Criss, reminisced about his experiences working with the headliner, saying, "Darren is one of the most fun people to work with. When I first got on Glee, I learned a lot about music and writing and how a song structure works from him."

Others reflected on what makes Criss such a unique talent and bright light of the stage. "Darren just has this incredible magnetism that I think stems from him being a very clever guy," said writer/producer Max Landis. "He has this je ne sais quoi, where he can pull funny and interesting out of a hat instantaneously ... and make lines said 100 times by 100 actors feel new and spontaneous."

Whitman expressed a similar admiration for Criss' talents. "He is so bright and lively and vivacious," she told THR. "He's really able to bring everyone into his circle of light, and everyone walks away from seeing him perform radiating energy."

Moschino creative director Jeremy Scott was on hand to support his friend and Hedwig costume designer Arianne Phillips, who also designed the costumes for the original 2001 film of the same name. Scott praised Phillips' use of a "subversive look," saying that he loved how Hedwig is "drag, but with a rock’n’roll hard edge."

The musical is a 90-minute, uninterrupted rock concert, with Hedwig telling her story of how she came to perform for the audience that night (a botched sex change operation leaving her with an "angry inch" being part of the journey). It reflects on acceptance and self-love wrapped up in a rock’n’roll package of wigs, glitter, high-heeled boots and rock music.

Choreographer Spencer Liff, who is now prepping his seventh Hedwig for Criss' exit following the show's L.A. run, told THR his work on the show opened new musical avenues for him. "I'm a huge musical theater lover, so I actually wasn’t a big rock music fan, and I discovered amazing people like David Bowie and Iggy Pop through research for Hedwig," he said.

Liff, who has since also choreographed Deaf West's Broadway production of Spring Awakening, said he hopes the rock sound will bring new audiences to musicals. "You get to introduce musical theater to a whole new generation," he noted. "People that might not go see Hello, Dolly! are going to come and see Hedwig and Spring Awakening. Seeing some teenagers walking into the theater for the first time is a really cool part of it."

Many guests remarked upon the importance and resonance of this show’s opening in the week leading up to election night. Mason Alexander Park, the stand-by for the role of Hedwig, said, "The idea that we all just need to embrace the love within ourselves and what we're able to share with other people is very important and relevant, especially in such an oddly hate-filled, scary time."

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Vincent Rodriguez III expressed similar sentiments, saying, "We're dealing with the normalization of elements of human beings that have been true for so long, but we’re now rediscovering it as if it’s never existed. Hedwig is one of those shows where a lot of those things that seem new right now were already engrained. ... We need to remember that we’re all people and we’re all living in the same time together, and we should just love more and accept more."

Hedwig and the Angry Inch runs through Nov. 27 at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre.

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