It’s been one helluva year for San Francisco native Lena Hall.
She was part of an amazing run in Broadway’s “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” where Hall played loyal husband Yitzhak, a role that garnered her a Tony Award. And there is the lineup of her wives over that year – Neil Patrick Harris, Andrew Rannells, Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell (who wrote the show’s book). These are Broadway heavy hitters; with Hall having an up close and personal view of Hedwig’s every detail, every nuance and every delectable inch at her beck.
The show’s national tour has taken root at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Theatre, where it will stay through Oct. 30th. Hall even has the privilege to get on the other side of the coin playing Hedwig once a week, a fabulous challenge for a magnificent performer.
When Hall ended her Broadway run in April of 2015, she made a grand exit, getting the most wonderful closure possible. So it wasn’t a slam-dunk to go back into the show on its latest national tour. But the pull of the show is so great and has meant so much to her, she had to come back and keep going.
“The way I said goodbye was so ridiculous and I didn’t know if I wanted to come back, because I said goodbye in such an amazing way,” said Hall. “It’s a great, rare opportunity to do my Tony-winning performance in front of my family and old friends. I’m very grateful for the opportunity.”
Hall was born to be a performer, born into a dancing family with her choreographer father and a mother who was a prima ballerina. She describes her time in ballet as something she did “right out of the womb,” and has been on the stage since she was three-years-old.
All the training and passion she exhibited in the dance world translated into a huge get for a very young woman, a lifelong performer who was destined for the Great White Way. After attending an open call around her 18th birthday, she found herself booking a national tour of “Cats.” That tour quickly led to a transfer to the Broadway company, so Hall had accomplished the very rare feat of leaving home to strike out on her own in New York City, but with a job already in place.
Hall is a methodical, detail-oriented performer, one that sat to the right of Hedwig every night for a year, observing what makes each of her Hedwig’s tick. For Hall, every tiny motion is an exercise in precision, built from intricate details of discovery.
“I sat and absorbed the show every single night, my job was to be present at every show,” said Hall. “I was able to absorb the show for a year with four different Hedwigs and was able to gain a deep understanding of the text and would pick something up very different from each one.”
There was also one very important nuance that Hall had to tackle – playing a believable character of a different gender.
“The biggest challenge was to convince audiences that I was a man at first,” said Hall. “It was the most important thing as far as the storyline. I really had to explore the quietness, the stoicism of a man. There was also having to respond emotionally and trusting the subtleties of my character.”
Hall’s Hedwig on this tour is a fellow San Franciscan, Darren Criss, known to the masses as Blaine Anderson, the lead singer of the Warblers in the Fox television series “Glee.” Criss’ Hedwig is a whirling dervish, and Hall is continuously finding ways for their performance to flourish with truth and honesty.
“He is my youngest, most rambunctious and energetic wife and it changes our relationship on stage,” said Hall. “We’ve been together under a month and are still finding our groove. What’s important is that I’m here for him 100 percent while he fights the good fight and will be there for him whenever he needs me.”
Hall’s performance in the Bay Area has received raves, both for Yitzhak and Hedwig. San Francisco Chronicle theatre critic Lily Janiak marveled at Hall’s work as Hedwig, stating “Where other musicians might interpret a note as a static monolith, Hall creates sumptuous texture, endowing a single beat with as much complexity as others might give to a whole phrase.”
Playing both roles in the show has given Hall such depth and texture, an experience that isn’t all that common, but an experience that Hall took full advantage of.
“Playing the lead role of Hedwig, I’ve gotten a deeper understanding of both roles,” said Hall. “It’s given me a whole layer of understanding of Yitzhak. It’s extremely personal.”
Hall will be leaving the show again after the run concludes in Los Angeles. But is there another run in Hall sometime in the future? This is a show that she considers “a flawless show, a work of art.” While playing the title role once a week is nice, she would not be against a full run of Hedwig. But for now, she knows when her time is up.
“Every time you leave something, it’s bittersweet and sad because you’re leaving what you know and going on to the next thing,” said Hall. “It’s that dichotomy that’s always there and it never gets easy.”
WHAT TO KNOW IF YOU GO
SHNSF presents “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Trask
Book by John Cameron Mitchell
Directed by Michael Mayer
Starring Darren Criss and Lena Hall
The Golden Gate Theatre
1 Taylor Street, San Francisco
90 minutes, no intermission
Tickets range from $45 to $212
For tickets, call (888) 746-1799 or visit www.shnsf.com