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Darren Criss, Rebecca Naomi Jones jump into ‘Hedwig’

FILE - In this April 29, 2015 file photo, Rebecca Naomi Jones, left, and Darren Criss appear on stage during the curtain call for his "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" debut performance at the Belasco Theatre in New York. (Photo by Greg Allen/Invision/AP, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Before hitting a Broadway stage, she has to remember not to let her butt stick out. Her co-star, meanwhile, can’t forget to swivel his shoulders back.

Darren Criss and Rebecca Naomi Jones have a lot more on their minds than getting their lines straight as they perform “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” each night. They’re also playing different genders.

Criss, the former “Glee” star, has taken over the role of the East German transsexual Hedwig, while Jones plays Hedwig’s disgruntled husband Yitzhak. That means she has to push her pelvis out and he has to stop hunching over.

“We both have the same plight and challenges, which is working against our biology,” Criss said on an old backstage couch beside Jones. “It’s nice that both of us — even though we’re trying to be the opposite sex — can commiserate in this constant struggle.”

Written by John Cameron Mitchell and composer Stephen Trask, “Hedwig” is an unlikely hit fashioned out of a strange story: a tale of obsession, glam rock, a botched sex-change operation and a quest for identity. It was a cult hit off-Broadway and made into a 2001 film.

The show roared onto Broadway last season with Neil Patrick Harris starting off the Hedwigs — and winning a Tony Award — and was replaced by Andrew Rannells, Michael C. Hall and then co-creator Mitchell. Jones replaced Lena Hall, who won a supporting actress Tony as Yitzhak.

Criss, who remembers listening to the soundtrack every day for a year in San Francisco on the drive to high school, lobbied producers to join the show but had to wait until “Glee” finished.

While he wasn’t a fan of replacing another actor again — he made his Broadway debut in 2012 taking over from Daniel Radcliffe in “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying” — this show is different.

“I would have continued to see other people go in for this role and it just would have driven me more and more mad that it wasn’t me,” he said. “It was just too wildly exciting not to. I had to do it.”

Jones, whose Broadway credits include “Passing Strange” and “American Idiot,” has never replaced before and was initially a little uneasy because she’s be taking her “small but mighty role” from a Tony-winner.

“It did feel a little like, ‘What’s in it for me?’ But, of course, what’s in it for me is this beautiful piece of theater that I’ve been a fan of for many, many years and the writing of a man who I’ve been a fan of for many, many years,” she said.

Both find it funny that a show once considered a cult hit starring a character in a Farrah Fawcett-style wig, gold lace-up boots and a German accent could now be a Broadway favorite.

“I think it’s really cool that something that 15 some odd years ago was a very weird, going-out-on-a-limb thing is now the hottest ticket in town,” said Criss. “That means our society has shifted in its favor and that the show was truly ahead of its time.”

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Online: http://hedwigbroadway.com

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Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

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