AURORA | Local theater can be a little bit of a crapshoot when it comes to taking on hits from Broadway and Hollywood. It’s almost impossible for a local production, with limited budgets and smaller talent pools to draw from, to reach the same heights that Tinseltown and the epicenter for top-notch theater can put out on a regular basis.

But sometimes, just sometimes, the stars align and the theater down the street is able to produce a show that not only can hold is own against big-budgeted versions of the same script, but in many ways surpass them all together.

The Aurora Fox Theater’s current run of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is one of those shows.

The story of an East German transgender glam rocker who was subjected to a botched sex change operation and having her music stolen by the love of her life, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is part rock show, part autobiography and part dissertation on the meaning of love and identity. But beyond all of the deeper meaning the show carries, and there’s a lot of meaning in this show for sure, what’s most important is it is possibly the most fun one can find in a live show in Denver.

The story of Hedwig plays out as she and her band, The Angry Inch, roll through their set for the night. Hedwig is a rock star diva that embodies everything wonderful and over-the-top from artists like Lou Reed, David Bowie, Diana Ross and Johnny Rotten all rolled into one. And she is holding nothing back as she performs just down the street from her former lover and musical partner who has shot to fame on the back of Hedwig’s music.

The band The Fox has put together to form The Angry Inch should consider keeping together as they’re worthy of a spot on stage at The Fillmore on any given night. And Norrell Moore, as Hedwig’s disgruntled husband and back-up singer Yitzhak, has a voice of an angel possessed, and she’s pitch perfect as Hedwig’s foil.

Even with an amazing band and a great backup singer, if the actor cast as Hedwig wasn’t up to the task, the show would fall flat. The Fox has lucked out in being able to tap Jake Mendes to fill Hedwig’s glam rock shoes and cape.

Mendes has to be able to turn on a dime as Hedwig to pull off this performance. In one instance, he has to be the oversexualized rock star parading around stage like Mick Jagger in a corset for the song “Sugar Daddy.” In the next, he has to be the lost and heartbroken woman stuck alone in some dump of a town in the song “Wig in a Box.” He handles those hairpin turns like a finely tuned Italian sports car, covered in glitter and wearing an incredible Farrah Fawcett wig.

Hedwig recently received a revival on Broadway with Neil Patrick Harris in the titular role. After hearing Mendes’ voice embody Hedwig, and giving the Broadway version a listen, it’s clear that Harris’s performance doesn’t hold a candle to what’s on stage at the Fox right now.

The music is perfect, the performances sublime, but it is the heart of this script that makes this show a must see. It might seem odd that a punked out, glammed up rock opera could make you cry. But for all of her rock star detachment and over the top diva behavior, at her core Hedwig is just a broken hearted lover who just wants to find her place in the world. Just like the rest of us.

5/5 Stars

“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” at The Aurora Fox Theater. Playing now through Feb. 10. 

Tickets start at $33, with discounted tickets available for seniors, students and military. 

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