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Local actress recalls "Hedwig's" heyday

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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Seeing the Tony Award-winning production of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" on Broadway in 2014 was "what I imagine watching my kids graduate would be like" for Miriam Shor.

"Hedwig" is a seminal work for the actress, who was raised in Ferndale and graduated from Ferndale High School and the University of Michigan, Shor played the main support role of Yitzhak, a drag queen who's the codependent backup-singer, assistant and husband figure for the main character, during its award-winning Off-Broadway run starting in 1998 and in the 2001 film adaptation, for which she won an L.A. Outfest Award for supporting actress.

She was there for its early days as a subversive and irreverent show dealing with issues of gender identity, politics and globalization -- set to a high-octane glam-rock score. And Shor was pleased to see it still had its kick when it hit the Great White Way (starring Neil Patrick Harris in the role created by writer John Cameron Mitchell) and in the subsequent touring production that arrives this week at Detroit's Fisher Theatre.

"I never thought it would be on Broadway," Shor, ??, who currently stars in the TV Land series "Younger," says by phone from the home in Manhattan's East Village that she shares with husband Justin Hagan and their seven- and almost four-year-old daughters. "It just seemed so subversive when we first did it that there was just no way.

"But now, you know, some of things in it are no longer as subversive as they were in the first place. But it's still relevant -- maybe more relevant now, when some of these things are under attack in the current (U.S. political) climate. It's still incredibly relevant."

"Hedwig" was, in fact, the first audition Shor's agent sent her to after she arrived in New York. It was initially an "off Off-Broadway" workshop in which Mitchell and Stephen Trask were working out their ideas. "They said, 'We don't really know what it is. It's a man played by a woman. Go for it,'" Shor recalls. "The part developed during the workshop, like a lot of other things."

It also made for an interesting call to her divorced parents (her father, retired history professor Fran Shor, still resides in the metro area), though neither flinched at the prospect.

"They were all for it," says Shor, whose musical features in the show include "Sugar Daddy," "The Long Grift," "Exquisite Corpse" and the anthemic show opener "Tear Me Down." "With them it's like the weirder the better. It's hard for me to imagine not coming from a supportive family. They're excited that I do what I do and I can try different things and they're always really proud."

"Hedwig" was a hit out of the box. The Off Broadway production won a pair of Obie Awards and an Outer Critics Circle Award, while the Broadway version won Four Tonys, including Best Revival of a Musical. "The music is still really relevant, I think," says Shor, who refers to Trask's songs as "crypto-homo rock" drawn from artists such as David Bowie and Lou Reed. "I listen to those songs and they don't feel dated at all to me."

Two decades later Shor considers "Hedwig" "the luckiest thing that ever happened to me in my career for sure." it was certainly the launch pad for subsequent roles on stage, in films such as "Bedazzled," "5 Flights Up" and "Puerto Ricans in Paris" and on TV programs including "Becker," "The West Wing," "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," Mildred Pierce" and "The Good Wife." A return to "Hedwig" for Broadway was broached but didn't work out due to her commitment to "Younger."

"It's been fun to watch the life that ('Hedwig') has had over the years," says Shor, who has high praise for Euan Morton, who plays Hedwig in the touring cast. "I still feel like I'm part of that universe and that family, though. (Yitzhak) was my character for a long time. It's still very special to me.

"Hedwig & the Angry Inch"

Tuesday, Feb. 21 through March 5.

The Fisher Theatre, 3011 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit.

Tickets are $29-$94.

Call 313-872-1000 or visit broadwayindetroit.com.

Web Site: www.broadwayindetroit.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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