‘The Origin of Love’ at Utah Presents Illuminates the Songs and Stories of John Cameron Mitchell’s ‘Hedwig’


Utah Presents

John Cameron Mitchell as Hedwig in the “Origin of Love” Tour (Courtesy John Cameron Mitchell)

By Makena Reynolds, Arts Writer


After two years of waiting due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “The Origin of Love: The Songs and Stories of Hedwig” showed at Utah Presents this Friday, Dec. 4 at Kingsbury Hall as a 20th Anniversary tour for the musical “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” This theatrical experience celebrated queerness on stage as a love letter to devoted fans of “Hedwig” and its creator John Cameron Mitchell. In performance, Mitchell was accompanied by the band Tits of Clay, along with singer Amber Martin.

History of Hedwig

First a stage musical and then screen adaptation, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” follows a trans woman by the name of Hedwig who underwent sex reassignment surgery in order to flee East Berlin to the West. Once news breaks that the Berlin Wall has fallen, Hedwig begins to question her gender and the decision to transition, and whether or not she identifies as a man or a woman. The plot of the show follows Hedwig and her band on tour as they struggle to find a following after a popular rock star, Tommy Gnosis, steals her songs. 

Mitchell wrote the book for the 1998 musical, with music by Stephen Trask, and directed and starred in the 2001 film, which won him the award for Best Director at the Sundance Film Festival. After it previewed off-Broadway, “Hedwig” garnered a well-deserved cult following before a Broadway production in 2014 and a U.S. Tour in 2016. 

The Hedwig Experience

For fans of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” the performance of Mitchell’s “Origin of Love” brought audience members through the artistic journey of bringing the original production to life. Pairing musical numbers with stories including that of how Mitchell and Trask met and who the character of Tommy was based on are supported by the overarching theme of the musical: “where does love come from?” 

Mitchell entered dressed as Hedwig — the iconic Farrah Fawcett platinum wig, blue sparkly eyeshadow and, of course, an elaborate costume mimicking the Origin of Love graphic from the film. Immediately, fans were brought into the world of “Hedwig” as Tits of Clay played the musical’s opening, “America the Beautiful.”

All of the show’s beloved songs including “Tear Me Down,” “Wig in a Box,” “Sugar Daddy” and “Angry Inch” were performed by Mitchell, Martin and the band. A notable performance was included in the song “The Long Grift,” which was introduced as a song dedicated to the real life Tommy who had lost his life to substance abuse.

Masculine and Feminine Energy

In a new age of queerness and redefining gender, “Hedwig” resonates more than ever. The audience was filled with people of all ages, gender identities and sexualities. With Salt Lake City being such a hub for queer people and the arts, especially theatre, juxtaposed against the conservative and religious nature of the rest of the state, Utah Presents was the the perfect place for this show to perform.

In between songs, Mitchell discussed the masculine and feminine energies that all people embody, whether consciously or subconsciously. Driving the importance of embracing all parts of themself without repression, they drew parallels to common gender stereotypes, like hyper-masculine men rejecting being emotional because it is a feminine quality. There is no emotion or personality that belongs to one gender — Mitchell, in performance, was a fierce advocate for this belief and encouraged the audience to embrace every part of themselves. The songs from “Hedwig” featured in “The Origin of Love” are testaments to that message.


Though “The Origin of Love” is no longer showing in Salt Lake, Mitchell is on tour with the show through December. The rest of the 2021-2022 season at Utah Presents can be found on their website.


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