They are transforming themselves into The Angry Inch, but as they prepare for rehearsal, Selkirk College Contemporary Music & Technology Program students Brennan Buglioni, Amanda Cawley and Leonard Pallerstein seem like a pretty happy group.
On February 12, the local production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch will open at the Shambhala Music & Performance Hall on Nelson’s Tenth Street Campus. A co-production between Selkirk College and Black Productions, the hit musical will be performed on nine nights in Nelson and then hit the road for two more shows in Cranbrook and Trail.
Selkirk College Contemporary Music & Technology students (L-R) Amanda Cawley, Brennan Buglioni and Leonard Pallerstein are currently in rehearsals for the local production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The students will play the role of The Angry Inch, the band that backs the main character being playing by Nelson’s 2015 Cultural Ambassador Bessie Wapp.
The story of a fictional rock and roll band fronted by an East German singer who survived a botched sex change operation stars Nelson’s Bessie Wapp in the lead role. Backing her up will be the trio of Selkirk College students who are an integral part of the show.
“It’s cool to step out of your comfort zone,” says Pallerstein, who plays the guitarist in The Angry Inch. “We came to Selkirk to play music, but this is something more and it’s a pretty interesting experience.”
The three students will be joined on stage by Contemporary Music & Technology Program Instructor Darren Mahe, who is also providing his talents as the show’s musical director with fellow Selkirk College instructor Melody Diachun.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch doesn’t consist of a large cast, Wapp and Nelson’s Sydney Black are the two main stars. The band acts as minor characters and though they contribute few lines, their roles are vital to the production.
“I haven’t been in a production since elementary school when they put on plays and forced all the little kids to be in it,” laughs Buglioni, who plays The Angry Inch drummer. “I was mostly in the big choir of kids in the background. I had two lines one year, but other than that was pretty happy to be in the back. I’m a little older now and it’s cool to be part of this.”
An Important Partnership in Production
The production is fuelled by Black, a local actor and producer who has put on two large scale shows—Cabaret and Chicago—at Nelson’s Capitol Theatre in the last two years. Over the years, Black has worked with Mahe on several projects and when she was putting together plans for Hedwig and the Angry Inch this past summer, threw out the idea of including Selkirk College students.
Bessie Wapp transformed into the character of Hedwig. Wapp is Nelson's Cultural Ambassador for 2015. (photo by Emilee Zaitsoff)
“I feel it’s important to have students involved because education and experience go hand-in-hand when performance is considered,” says Black, who was raised in Nelson and took the theatre program at Dalhousie University.
“This is a great opportunity for the students. They are learning about what it takes to be involved in mounting a full musical production. They’ll be on stage performing in 11 shows in three different cities for a potential audience of over 2,400 people with four weeks of rehearsal. It's as close to a professional experience as they will find in the area, which will be invaluable to them in the future.”
Exploring Different Pathways
All three Selkirk College students admit to having known very little about Hedwig and the Angry Inch before they auditioned in the first semester. With the music inspired by the likes of David Bowie, Mott the Hoople and Velvet Underground, the students are all enjoying learning their foray into the glam rock genre.
“I’ve learned a lot so far,” says Pallerstein, who arrived to Selkirk College from Vancouver and is in his second year of studies. “I’m loving the soundtrack so far.”
Amongst the students, Cawley has the most experience with musicals having acted in both Hairspray and Annie when she was growing up in Kelowna. A classically trained pianist, Cawley chose the Selkirk College program because she wanted to delve more into blues and rock.
“The classical background helps in this setting because it provides a good foundation for this material,” says the 19-year-old who is playing keyboards in The Angry Inch.
The local production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch opens at the Shambhala Music & Performance Hall on February 12.
In her first year of the two-year program, Cawley says the opportunity to be part of Hedwig will provide valuable tools in her training.
“This is the path that I want to follow,” she says. “I’m really shooting for Cirque du Soleil orchestra pit or Broadway orchestra pits. So this is a great experience to prepare for that.”
Buglioni has played in several bands, both back in his native Port Moody and while attending Selkirk for the last two years. Though the time commitment required for being part of the production means compounding an already stressful schedule, the drummer jumped at the opportunity to try something different.
“It’s a good way to add to your resume and get paid,” he says. “Some people think that going to music school means you are going to be famous and be in a band. They don’t understand that the whole industry is so much more than that, there are so many different little veins.”
Creating a Legacy For Future Students
Hedwig and the Angry Inch opens on February 12 and the cast has been putting in many hours preparing their parts. Black says the Selkirk College students have captured the spirit of the show and added a tremendous element to the production,
“They are incredibly talented musicians and performers,” says Black. “They are jumping in head first and fully tackling their roles. They have an abundance of energy, are consummate professionals and I feel incredibly lucky to get to perform alongside them.”
To create a lasting legacy, Black is splitting all profits from the 11-show run with Selkirk College and will be creating a scholarship for music program students.
Tickets for the show are available through the Capitol Theatre Box Office either online or by phone 250.352.6363.