Born a boy named Hansel whose life’s dream is to find his other half, Hedwig reluctantly submits to a sex change operation in order to marry an American G.I. and get over the Berlin Wall to freedom. The operation is botched, leaving her with an ‘angry inch’. Finding herself high, dry and divorced in a Kansas trailer park, she pushes on to form a rock band and encounters a lover/protégé in young Tommy Gnosis, who eventually leaves her, steals her songs and becomes a huge rock star.
A bitter yet witty Hedwig with her pan-Slavic band, The Angry Inch, shadows Tommy’s stadium tour, performing in near-empty restaurants for bewildered diners and a few die-hard fans. Through a collage of songs, flashbacks and animation, Hedwig tells her life story while on a tour of chain strip-mall seafood restaurants, trying to capitalise on her tabloid celebrity as the supposed ex-lover of famed rock star Tommy Gnosis. Somewhere between the crab cakes and the cramped motel rooms, between the anguish and the acid-wash, she pursues her dreams and discovers the origin of love.