Taye Diggs debuts in Hedwig and the Angry Inch tonight
Taye Diggs is set to make his debut in Hedwig and the Angry Inch on the Broadway stage – the first African-American actor to do so.
Appearing in the role for the first time tonight, he’ll become the sixth actor to take on the role as East German genderqueer rocker Hedwig – following on from Michael C Hall, Darren Criss and Andrew Rannells.
Diggs said to The New York Times: “…I didn’t think it would ever happen. I assumed that nobody would ever have the open-mindedness to cast this character black.”
The 1998 play was written by John Cameron Mitchell – who also originated the role.
However, Hedwig has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years with a string of high-profile stars taking on the rocker’s heels – winning a Tony Award in 2014, while Cameron Mitchell received a Special Award for his dedication to theatre.
For 12 weeks, 44-year-old Diggs will don the glitter and glamour of East German singer Hedwig – who undergoes botched gender reassignment surgery and blurs the line of gender.
The straight performer, whom Ebony magazine dubbed “the black Clark Gable” in 2005, has shocked the public by taking on the role, but he’s voiced nothing but excitement.
After a 12 year absence from the theatre scene, he said the opportunity is “everything I’ve ever wished for.”
He told the New York Times: “This is me telling myself, ‘OK, bitch, put your money where your mouth is.
“You’ve been telling agents and your best friends — I told Idina — ‘I want a chance to show everybody everything. I can dance and I can sing, and everybody knows I can act.’”
Before Hedwig, Diggs dripped sex appeal in the movies How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Chicago, along with television series Grey’s Anatomy.
With a degree in musical theatre, he’s also made several appearances on stage- from Wicked to Rent.
He commented that acting on television is incomparable to the demands of theatre performances- particularly Hedwig, with its eight hour rehearsals.
When he first watched the musical as a young boy, he was taken aback.
He said to The New York Times: “. . .back then, transgender scared me, and there was this man onstage with a crazy wig.
“Since I was a kid, I’ve been trying to wean myself off of seeing things as right and wrong and black and white and good and bad.
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“And Hedwig was a mixture of all that stuff.”
Just like its subject matter, the play has run an unconventional course.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch was created in the 1990s- its first performances in a SoHo club, popular with the LGBT community.
Composer Stephen Trask explained: “‘The whole point of many of the songs and much of the subject matter of the show was to break down the walls between different categories that we perceive as being opposites, like male and female or straight and gay.”
Neil Patrick Harris, who previously played Hedwig on Broadway, performed a rendition of one of her songs live at the 2014 Tony Awards.