Small World

Rocket man

Everything works out the way it's supposed to for Nick Garrison.

Even now, talking in Uptown Espresso on lower Queen Anne, the actor best known in Seattle for playing the gender-bending rock prophet in Re-bar's roof-blowing Hedwig and the Angry Inch—and whose comic brilliance seems poised to take over the rest of the country, city by city—appears to have the cafe pulling for him. He starts to talk as the sound system booms Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" like an unofficial herald ("I'm gonna go, go, go/There's no stopping me/I'm traveling at the speed of light").

Garrison—tiny, bright-eyed, muscular, with a shaved head and fiercely mischievous charm—talks at the speed of light, and considering the dizzying rate with which everything has happened to him recently, it's understandable. A turn as kitschy songstress Randee Sparks in his one-man show Semi-Precious (another Re-bar hit) led to a part in a new play at the prestigious Humana Festival at the Actor's Theatre of Louisville. Which led to actor/director Bob Balaban (Gosford Park) casting him for TV work (including Comedy Central's much-mourned Strangers With Candy with comedian Amy Sedaris). Seattle's five-month Hedwig stint led to a six-month Chicago run. And now Hedwig's creators, John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask, will be overseeing him in the role in San Francisco. Oh, and there's that possible improvisational Balaban movie in development. . . .

"I got a call to go to L.A.—no specifics," he says, marveling at what he might consider luck but what any of his happy admirers would recognize as fate. "So I flew down at night and got in late, and I went the next morning into the studio, and it was, like, 12 people—Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Lisa Kudrow—all these people. I lost my mind. And for three days I couldn't do anything. I could barely speak. I had to go in the very first day and start improvising with these people, and I was not good at all. I was totally doing that bad improv thing where I was trying to be funny."

Everything turned out fine, of course, and while he crosses his fingers about that project's future, he's opening back in his Seattle hometown as one of the leads in the highly anticipated Allison Narver/Chris Jeffries Empty Space cabaret musical Vera Wilde, about the political camaraderie between Oscar Wilde and 19th-century Russian activist Vera Zasulich.

"Honestly, I'm not being falsely modest," Garrison swears, completely ingenuous. "People are always saying, 'What's your game plan?' I don't have a game plan—the main thing is I want to keep working steadily and doing stuff I care about."

"We Will Rock You" is now playing.

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