Emotional, funny, poignant, electrifying and even a bit shocking more than 40 years after its debut at The Public Theatre in New York City, Hair triumphantly marches into the Kennedy Center Opera House to bring its 21st century audience "on a rocket to the fourth dimension" back to 1967.
Hair was a groundbreaking theatre piece when it opened at the Public Theatre and then transferred to Broadway. It did not win the Tony Award for Best Musical, losing to the more conventional musical, 1776, yet after 40 years the amazing production that was first brought to New York's Central Park and then steered skillfully to a Best Revival of a Musical Tony Award under the incredibly astute direction of Diane Paulus and choreography of Karole Armitage has found relevance in our modern era. Not for the "kids" today the uncertainty of facing a draft to fight a controversial war. Yet, the themes of race, sexuality, peer pressure, and the generation gap are still as vibrant today as they were on stage in 1967.
Is Hair a relic of the era in which it was created? Yes. Can it be difficult to understand with its relatively non-linear storytelling? Yes. Are some of its vignettes as shocking on stage as they were forty years ago? Yes and no. Why does it garner enthusiastic reactions from the crowds that come to see the show today? It can all be laid at the feet of director Diane Paulus who has skillfully transformed her cast into the hippies of 1967. These actors do not seem to be playing roles, they seem to imbody the archetypal characters of Gerome Ragni, James Rado and Galt MacDermot's tribe. And the audience eagerly responds with many joining the cast on stage during the post curtain call "Hair-y party."
The Thespian had the privilege of seeing the New York Broadway revival cast. The national touring company is just as talented as the actors who appeared on Broadway. Phyre Hawkins brings a powerful voice while singing Aquarius . Matt DeAngelis brings humor and pathos to the sexually unsure Woof. Darius Nichols brings strength and defiance to the hard-edged Hud. As Sheila, Caren Lyn Tackett shows the character's strengths as a protest leader yet has the underlying vulnerability of being in love with someone that doesn't completely love her back brought forth in the song Easy to be Hard.
Josh Lamon who portrays the "adult" roles of Dad and Margaret Mead, along with Allison Guinn as Mother bring an edge to the conflict within the "generation gap." Kacie Sheik as the pregnant earth mother, Jeannie seems to have truly stepped out of the past as one of the most committed tribe members.
Steel Burkhardt is brash, sassy and in your face, literally and figuratively as Berger. His energy is unbound and if you are in the front row of the Opera House you will get to know Berger very, very well.
Paris Remillard brings alive the truly conflicted Claude Hooper Bukowski. The only true storyline in Hair is Claude's conflict. Does he fully embrace the counter culture by defying authority and burning his draft card? Or does he make his parents proud of him by enlisting in the army and going to Vietnam where he is convinced he will die, again literally dying and figuratively becoming dead to his tribe. It is a testament to Mr. Remillard's acting and some poignant moments between Claude and his parents directed by Ms. Paulus that bring this conflict to emotional life on stage.
Take this opportunity to see a Broadway revival at its best and see Hair at The Kennedy Center or at other stops on the National Tour.
Hair contains nudity, sexual situations, strong profanity, implied violence and drug use. It is not recommended for young children and parents of teenagers should consider the maturity of the themes of the musical in deciding whether they should attend.
Hair will be performed at The Kennedy Center Opera House through November 21, 2010. For tickets and performance information please visit www. kennedy-center.org.