When Stephen Trask found out back in 1998 that "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" had won the Obie and Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical, he figured that was about as good as it was going to get.
"At the time I remember some people talking to us about Broadway, but I was such a neophyte back then," said Trask, who wrote the lyrics and music for John Cameron Mitchell's play, coming to Proctors for two shows next Tuesday and Wednesday night. "I didn't know what it meant. Somebody did tell me that it involved raising a lot of money and we were such a low-budget thing I figured that was it."
"Hedwig," however, the story of a rock and roll band fronted by a transgender East German singer, Hedwig Robinson, had a much longer life than Trask could have hoped for. It was done in regional theaters around the country, had a West End premiere in London in 2000, and then more than a decade later opened on Broadway in April of 2014. That production earned a Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical, won three other Tonys and finished with eight nominations. The national touring production, which includes Shenendehowa grad Hanna Corneau in one of the featured roles, opened in San Francisco in October of 2016.
"If they had let us in the new musical category we would have won that, too," said Trask. "It was a great production and so is the tour. We tweaked it a little bit in 2014 when we took it to Broadway, and the band we have touring, which has done close to 700 of these shows, is a four-piece rock and roll band, all with distinctive looks, that is one of the tightest, experienced, great-sounding bands in America."
Justin Craig (guitar and keyboards), Matt Duncan (bass), Tim Mislock (guitar) and Peter Yanowitz (drums) were all in the Broadway production and remain part of the tour, while joining Corneau on the stage in the role of Hedwig is Euan Morton, who has a Tony and Olivier Award nomination on his resume along with originating the role of Boy George in the musical, "Taboo."
"Euan's Hedwig is going to be so exquisitely beautiful and archingly heartbreaking," said Trask. "What an emotional powerhouse. He is otherworldly."
Trask, who continues to spend a lot of time with the tour, has seen Corneau often enough to know she was a great pick to play Yitzhak.
"She has made the role hers, and she is a force of nature," said Trask.
Trask, who is currently working on a new musical, "This ain't no disco," about the New York City club scene in 1979 and 1980, grew up in New London, Connecticut. When a friend brought over a Beatle's record, "Help," music became his passion.
"When I was a little kid I heard 'Help,' and I went nuts for it," remembered Trask. "It was the most amazing thing I ever heard. After that I would walk down to the library and listen to music. I would listen to Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Lena Horne, and then as I got older it was Elton John. Then I heard two things that changed everything. I was walking into a high school dance and I heard the Clash, and it was like I was blown back against the wall. I had never heard anything like it. And then I heard Prince. Hearing them changes everything."
Trask picked up a guitar as a young teenager, and after graduating from Wesleyan University with a music degree, he became music director and house band member at the New York City nightclub, Squeezebox, where he played with performers such as Debra Harry and Joey Ramone. He has produced numerous songs and written many film scores, including "Station Agent" in 2003 and "Dreamgirls" in 2006, to name just a few.
"My newest project," he says, talking about "This Ain't No Disco," "is about the nightclub scene in New York City back in '79 and '80. Part of it is set in Studio 54, which was half glamour and half glitz, and the other part takes place at the Mudd Club, which was sort of downtown's answer to Studio 54. The Mudd Club relied more heavily on live music. That was where you went to see the Talking Heads. That's where hip hop was first performed outside the South Bronx."
'Hedwig and the Angry Inch'
WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday
HOW MUCH: $75-$20
MORE INFO: 346-6204, www.proctors.org