As an off-Broadway play, then a beautifully crafted film and finally a large-scale Broadway production starring a plethora of big-name performers, Hedwig and the Angry Inch has always kinda defied description. A concept album-meets-cabaret show-meets-LGBTQ love story, John Cameron Mitchell’s magnum opus is a renowned piece of work no matter its medium, and people have long clamored for more. For years, Mitchell, the show’s writer and star (and director of the 2001 film) had hinted at a Hedwig sequel, but presented as a “darker” look at the second half of his character’s life, told in the format of a four-to-six-hour miniseries.
But we now know those plans for a full-scale Hedwig sequel have been laid to rest by Mitchell, replaced instead with the Anthem podcast, a project that seems just as undefinable and wholly original as the 20-year lifespan of Hedwig and the Angry Inch has proven to be.
A “musical anthology podcast” that is inspired by Hedwig, started out as a Hedwig sequel but eventually became something else, Anthem will star Mitchell and The Color Purple‘s Cynthia Erivo. The first season of the Anthem podcast, called “Homonculus,” will consist of 10 30-minute episodes, directed by Mitchell and Bryan Weller, with whom he collaborated on the soundtrack for his film How to Talk to Girls at Parties.
“Hedwig had too much baggage,” Mitchell told WBUR last month. “It was like putting a hat on a hat. So, it became much more autobiographical or an alternate biography.” Back in May 2018, he described the Anthem podcast to Newsweek as “like taking the wig out of Hedwig.”
Most exciting of all, Anthem: Homonculus will feature more than 30 original songs, sung by guest stars who include Patti LuPone, Glenn Close, Denis O’Hare, Laurie Anderson, Justin Vivian Bond, Marion Cotillard and Bridget Everett.
Mitchell will play a character named Ceann Mackay, who lives in Hedwig’s trailer, which is mentioned in the stage shows and was made famous in the film. He has compared the Anthem podcast to an audio telethon where is character is raising money for a surgery, “like a live Kickstarter, a comic life flashing before his eyes before he perhaps meets his maker.”
Anthem: Homonculus is expected to launch in May 2019 as one of the originating podcasts on the Luminary Media network, which is striving to be the “Netflix of podcasts” and will offer exclusive projects from a long list of celebrities, including Lena Dunham, Russell Brand, Conan O’Brien and Trevor Noah.
In the meantime, Mitchell has been touring a show called The Origin of Love Tour, during which he performs some of the new original songs that were initially intended for the Hedwig sequel. That show has already played Washington, D.C., Chicago and Boston, and will play New York City‘s Town Hall on June 28 and 29, which is coincidentally also NYC Pride / World Pride weekend.