I saw the bootleg of Darren Criss as Hedwig last night, and I just had to say something about it.
First, I want to clarify that I am a big believer in paying for entertainment, and supporting the performers and production team etc etc etc. If there were any rational way in the world for me to go see the show live I would have done it. But it would take me a full month’s income just to get to NYC and back, even before show tickets or hotels or any of that. If I could pay for a professional taping of this show, or a professional album, I would. But Broadway hasn’t gotten smart and created their own version of DigitalTheatre to do that. So a bootleg it was.
I’m a sp0!ler-free writer, so I won’t say anything about specific content of the show. But I feel like I need to talk about Darren’s performance.
A month or so ago someone showed me a bootleg of one of the prior Hedwigs. I’m not even going to say which one because it doesn’t matter. I like that actor. He is a gifted performer, very funny, and very talented. It was a great show.
But when I got to the end of Darren’s show I felt emotionally wrung out. That didn’t happen the first time. Actually it almost never happens to me–I am almost never emotionally moved by shows (and especially a video of a stage play…I didn’t even know that was possible). Wicked Little Town went around in my head for hours, his voice and that intensity haunting my mind for the remainder of the day.
People keep saying that Darren Criss is a gifted performer, and definitely, he is that. But there’s something there that is more than just acting technique, physical ability, or musical skill. He has an ability to connect with the audience–not just talk with them, but connect somehow–on a deep, genuine, heartfelt level. Fans have repeatedly said that he’s such a nice person and so kind and friendly when they meet him, but even when he’s Hedwig (and being egotistical and raunchy and bitchy) he still can make those connections.
The first Hedwig I saw entertained me. She told me a sad story and I felt sorry for her of course, but I also never had any trouble remembering that it was just a story. She made me laugh, but she didn’t make me care about her.
Darren’s Hedwig moved me. I was pulled in completely (even on a tiny laptop screen). My heart was pulled out of my chest and thrown on the floor and then stomped-on with five-inch heels. For an hour and forty minutes.
And then, in the last few minutes, he literally stripped off the entire facade. Just one man, one microphone, one spotlight…so open and raw and falling apart in front of me so completely that it made me feel put back together by comparison.