Take a trip with me, close your eyes and feel and taste the colors of the world and listen to the sounds of the times. Step back with me to 1967 as the cast of 2009 Tony Award Winning “Hair” brings you back to a time when life in America was losing its innocence quickly and violently.
Meet the Tribe, a group of rag tag hippies living communally in New York, during the Age of Aquarius facing the troubling times ahead together full of love, peace and rebellion fueled by drugs, meditation and free love. From the hijinks of Berger (Steel Burkhardt), the long haired, silly and some what leader of this Tribe who dons a leather fringed loin cloth for most of the first 15 minutes of the show; to the up town kid Claude (Paris Remillard), who wants to be from Manchester England not South Orange New Jersey more than anything and wants to feel like he belongs to this world of musicians, artists and activists. The rest of this incredible cast round out a spectacular feast for the eyes, ears and senses.
The Segerstrom Center for Performing Arts has brought this remarkable show to Orange County for a limited engagement (January 25 – February 6) and it is not to be missed. With only one set, nothing incredibly spectacular all the moods are set by the music, the actors, and the lighting that bring the 60s back, live and in Technicolor. Click here for ticket information.
You open on a scene that shows you scaffolding like set with the live band sitting up on the stage behind the cast, the colors racing around you and suddenly you hear the music begin to pour in as the cast appears from within the audience to sing “Aquarius”. The rest of this show follows suit, bringing theater down to the people, in their faces, interactive and live as many scenes take place within the house and off the stage. This show had me teaming with wave after wave of chills not only from the incredible vocal talents, like Phyre Hawkins’ incredible deep, whole and rich voice as Dionne one of the many loves within the Tribe; or Caren Lyn Tackett who plays Sheila the love interest of both Berger and Claude with her incredibly powerful Alto voice filling the audience with the sad and soul filled ballad, “Easy to be Hard”. Don’t look for “Broadway” voices here; the raw sound of village voices comes from each member of this brilliant cast which adds to the atmosphere of sound and rebellion. This cast keeps you riveted to everything around you bringing you to the ultimate climax at the end of the first Act, the infamous nude scene, during the number, “Where Do I Go”, which was so well done, so well lit, it never took on the air or raunchy or inappropriate, it showed them all at their most vulnerable and becomes a poignant moment in the show.
“Hair” opened on Broadway in 1968 and became a ground breaking show ushering in the era of the “rock musical”. Gerome Ragni, James Rando and Galt MacDermot created a spectacle with this epic and important show which gave the mainstream world a look into the subculture of the “hippy” lifestyle and shows that although that generation of young people might have looked vastly different from the generation before that they suffered from many of the same problems and desired what anyone wants more than anything, love and understanding. Their words, music and lyrics still bring the power behind this show and make it ring in the hearts of a whole new generation of young adults, teens and children. Galt MacDermot composed some of the most recognized pieces of 60s music such as, “Let the Sun Shine In”, “Good Morning Starshine”, and “Aquarius”. The show is a tribute to community; to holding each other up, and giving strength in a time where people might be weak all while creating a space of understanding and non judgment filled with love. Tony Award winning Director Diane Paulus (Hair 2009) brings together a cast that helps bring these incredible characters to life and who are so well balanced that no one steps to far out to steal the show, but instead help to bring each other up and together as an ensemble and the results are amazing. Tony Award winning Lighting Director Kevin Adams (American Idiot, Spring Awakening) creates a palate of colors and lights that have you immersed in this world, you feel the warmth, the cold, the highs and lows with the actors every step of the way. If there was ever a dream cast for this show, this group of actors would be pretty darn close.
The second Act of the show delivers more than any one could imagine, from the trippy hallucination scene where Claude sees his Tribe mates portraying some of History’s leaders and villans leaving him wanting more than anything to be the invisible man; to the heart wrenching scene when you realize that Claude made his choice and will be shipped of to Vietnam via the Army; to the end when Claude achieves what he wanted, to make his father proud, to become the invisible man and disappear as the Tribe looks for him in the snow and closes the show with a haunting version of “Let the Sun Shine In” leaving Claude’s body laying in his coffin atop the American Flag. This show delivers and leaves you feeling a sense of wonder. The cast interacts with the audience more than any I’ve ever witnessed closing the night with a “Dance In” where they invite the audience members to come up on the stage and dance with them as they take their curtain calls.
If there was one negative thing about this show, I would have to say it was the sound balance, unfortunately for most of the first half of the show the vocal balance was very off and made it difficult to understand the lyrics to most of the musical numbers; which, in a show that is filled with music and song was an unfortunate happening, and towards the end one of the Tribe members mics seemed to fail completely and left him belting his solo very quietly on the stage.
As an actor this show brought me to tears of joy, as it reaffirmed why I became a stage actor, and to this day have a love and a passion for musical theater. This is the type of show, and cast who inspire a wide eyed child to become something more and want to be a part of something as spectacular as this. Everyone who is or has been an actor or stage performer knows what the burn and desire to create and live on the stage feels like and this cast shows you that and more. You can see the heart, love and soul that has gone into every dance step, every lyric, every word and feel incredible and privileged that you were able to be a witness to this amount of passion and love for the craft. “Hair” although set 40+ years ago still relates to the young generations and the generation that lived thru those times in this country. The audience was filled with folks who you could see still withheld those principles of love, freedom, art and equality. The freedom fighters, the poets, the musicians, the lovers; I applaud this cast and show, whole heartedly for their performance and their dedication to making their show shine and for brining us all to a higher place, back to the Age of Aquarius.