Photo: (top, bottom) Getty, (middle) Joan Marcus
Since Hedwig and the Angry Inch premiered on Broadway at the Belasco Theatre in April, Lena Hall has played Yitzhak, the stoic husband to Hedwig. In what may seem like an inconsequential role thanks to his near-silence, save for a few key lines, Yitzhak is essential to Hedwig’s relatability—and the production as a whole.
On stage, the 30-year-old actress and rock singer embodies a character that grounds Hedwig’s antics by reacting in very real ways to what his wife is doing and saying. “People are definitely drawn to watching my character in certain parts, because there’s a lot going on,” Hall says of the role that won her a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. And now that Michael C. Hall has stepped into the lead role following turns from Neil Patrick Harris and Andrew Rannells, the actress is discovering new layers of Yitzhak. “With every new wife that I get, it’s a totally different take on the relationship,” Hall explains. “I get to carry what I’ve developed with each one into the next one.”
With Harris, Hall says that their characters’ relationship was very sexual but there “was a lot of anger between the two.” As for Rannells, who stepped into the role for eight weeks from mid-August to October, he developed a loving relationship on stage with Hall. His Hedwig, however, was much more pained by everything from the past. And with Michael C. Hall, things are still very much being developed. The Dexter star has a much darker take on the role, but his dynamic with the actress hasn’t been fully formed. “We’ll see what kind of relationship that is,” Hall says. “He’s my first straight Hedwig, so that’ll be interesting.”
While she’s Hedwig’s remaining constant, these differences add value to what Hall does even if it’s not necessarily by choice. “My character listens so much and is very reactive, it just has to change,” Hall says of working with each actor. “I have to just go with it, and do what they want to do.”
Yet, what Hall does each night is more than just reacting to Hedwig — she’s aware of what’s happening on stage at all times. In what may not be so obvious to the audience, the actress also doubles as a stagehand, keeping the production in motion by replacing broken mic stands, moving equipment around, and keeping constant communication with the show’s monitor mixer. “I have to stay focused for the whole show,” Hall says. “I have to listen — it’s my job to make sure everything’s OK.” She admits there are technical things that go wrong during each show and, while it’s her job to deal with them, it keeps things fresh for the actress.
Before joining the Broadway show, Hall was already the frontwoman of her band The Deafening, and since playing Yitzhak, she's continued to perform other gigs (such as pop mashups during several Skivvies cabaret shows). "I love doing the show, but for some reason, I also have that need to express myself outside of doing Yitzhak," she explains. "I love performing all the time. People ask me, 'How do you find the energy to even do your show?' It's easy to find the energy when you love it so much and it feeds you. It feeds my energy. For a long time nobody knew who I was, no one cared. But now they're fans of mine."
Although it’s easy to think there’s very little pay off by playing a role that’s in Hedwig’s shadow, Yitzhak does get his moment to shine. In the show’s final moments, Hall leaves the stage and, in less than 90 seconds, transforms into a voluptuous drag queen to return to belt out the show’s final number, “Midnight Radio.” “I go from being this very darkly lit, dressed kind of drab [guy] to being so fabulous all in one,” Hall says. “It’s the cherry on top of the cake.”
Lena Hall & Michael C. Hall star in Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Belasco Theatre through January 4, 2015.