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posted: 3/6/2017 6:00 AM

From waitress to 'Hedwig': Chicago actress makes quite a move up the acting ladder

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  • Former Chicago actress Hannah Corneau stars as Yitzhak in the national tour of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago, running from Tuesday, March 7, through Sunday, March 19.

    Former Chicago actress Hannah Corneau stars as Yitzhak in the national tour of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago, running from Tuesday, March 7, through Sunday, March 19.
    Courtesy of Joan Marcus

  • Video: "Hedwig" creatives preview

 
 

Former Chicago actress Hannah Corneau can't wait to return to the Windy City in the hit 1998 adults-only rock musical "Hedwig and the Angry Inch." It's Corneau's first major tour, and performing at the Oriental Theatre marks a significant change from her first Chicago Loop job as a waitress.

"I was a poor working actor and struggling, so I did not get to go into those theaters very often and see shows," Corneau said. "Going from waiting tables to now performing downtown, that is the utmost honor and joy."

Rather than heading straight to New York after graduating with a B.F.A. in Musical Theatre from Syracuse University in 2012, Corneau spent two years launching her stage career in Chicago.

Corneau built up a strong resume in ensemble roles with Bailiwick Chicago and Writers Theatre in Glencoe. But Corneau treasures Paramount Theatre artistic director Jim Corti for plucking her out of a pool of nonprofessional actors to play Fruma Sarah in "Fiddler on the Roof" and Fantine in "Les MisÚrables" in Aurora.

"The Paramount Theatre is a pot of gold, honestly," said Corneau, thankful that Corti took a chance on her. "I will always cherish and respect his work."

Euan Morton stars in the title role of the national tour of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago, running March 7-19.
Euan Morton stars in the title role of the national tour of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago, running March 7-19. - Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Corneau turned professional in 2014 when she starred as Ruth Stern in major regional engagements of the Barry Manilow musical "Harmony" in Los Angeles and Atlanta. Another of Corneau's major regional roles was Eva Peron in "Evita" at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire in 2016.

In "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," Corneau stars in the male drag role of Yitzhak. He's the title character's much-maligned Balkan partner assisting with a squatters rock concert (performed on the set of the fictional flop musical of "The Hurt Locker") so Hedwig can tell her back story of how a former East German schoolboy made the journey to America and became an "internationally ignored song stylist."

"You're seeing this show where this person is still in search of who they are," Corneau said. "I love and appreciate that this piece has been around as long as it has, and that it does delve into really interesting and important themes."

Former Chicago actress Hannah Corneau stars as Yitzhak in the national tour of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago.
Former Chicago actress Hannah Corneau stars as Yitzhak in the national tour of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago. - Courtesy of Joan Marcus

This tour of "Hedwig" is derived from director Michael Mayer's Tony Award-winning 2014 Broadway revival. That famously featured a string of celebrity stars like Neil Patrick Harris, Michael C. Hall and Taye Diggs playing the embittered recipient of a botched sex change operation (hence the title).

On the road, it's Scottish actor Euan Morton ("Taboo," "Sondheim on Sondheim") playing Hedwig. Morton is not only a Tony-nominated Broadway star, but he's also the father of the child critic star of the internet series "Iain Loves Theatre."

"Euan is absolutely fantastic. He's just so raw and so very real in his portrayal," Corneau said. "His voice is also such a gift, and he's just got it."

Corneau is looking forward to showing Morton around the town that helped launch her career and meeting up with many of her local friends.

"I love, love, love the Chicago theater scene and the people within it," Corneau said. "I feel so grateful."

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