Giving Good Hedwig

Success comes in unexpected ways just ask Donnan Sutherland. After moving to Santa Fe three years ago from New York City, where he worked in several off-Broadway musicals, he settled into a career as a jazz and cabaret singer. Then last spring, Sutherland was offered the lead role in a local production of John Cameron Mitchell's off-Broadway hit Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

The show's music, in the vein of New York Dolls-style glam, required Sutherland to push his suave vocal style to jagged rock 'n' roll extremes. But his efforts paid off. "We had just an incredible show here. It just kept getting extended, moving to bigger theaters," he says.

Prominent Scottsdale art dealer Riva Yares, who also has a gallery in Santa Fe, saw Hedwig and was blown away by Sutherland's performance. "He's a star, I'm telling you. His voice is like nothing I've ever heard before," she says.

Yares wanted to share Hedwig with Valley audiences, so she's producing two special performances at Scottsdale Center for the Arts. Proceeds will be donated to Body Positive, a Phoenix-based HIV and AIDS research and resource center.

The musical tells the story of Hedwig's sad beginnings in East Berlin, where "she" starts out as a "he" named Hansel. An American officer promises Hansel marriage and an escape to the U.S. if he has a sex change. But when the operation gets messed up, Hansel gets dumped. Alone in the States with a new identity, Hedwig names her rock band after her "angry inch" and hits the road in search of fulfillment.

Yares argues that the show isn't just for a gay crowd; a really diverse audience can identify with the struggle for self-realization. "Everybody's looking for his other half," she says.

"I think it's an important story to get out there," Sutherland concludes. "Hedwig is an incredible character to take on." Hey, if the wig fits, wear it.

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Michele Laudig
Contact: Michele Laudig