Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Age of The Packaged Musical: “Hair” rocks out


Steel Burkhardt


Matt DeAngelis

Phyre Hawkins

Kaitlin Kiyan

Darius Nichols

Paris Remillard

Kacie Sheik

Caren Lyn Tackett

Emily Afton

Shaleah Adkisson

Nicholas Belton

Larkin Bogan

Corey Bradley

Laura Dreyfuss

Mike Evariste

Marshal Kennedy Carolan

Lulu Fal
Tribe/Abraham Linocln

Tripp Fountain

Nkrumah Gatling

Allison Guinn

Josh Lamon
Tribe/Father/Margaret Mead

John Moauro

Christine Nolan

Emmy Raver-Lampman

Arbender Robinson

Cailan Rose

Tanesha Ross

Sara Ruzicka

Jen Sese

Lee Zarrett
Tribe/Principal/Hubert/John Wilkes Booth

Now having seen yet another musical, I appreciate it for a piece of work, but also as a brand name. This was very much the case with “Hair” which is currently playing at the Boston Colonial Theater. The show is currently on tour, having had a very successful revival and run in New York, nabbing the Tony for Best Revival. I had seen a production of “Hair” years ago so I wanted to see a new interpretation. As expected, this show was strong and had great talent and technical aspects to boot. In this easily accessible show, you get a taste of Broadway in a prepackaged rocking experience.

To me, doing “Hair” today makes sense, considering the parallels of what was going on back then and today. I was there to see a show and I ended up being thoroughly impressed with the production as a whole. The story depicts various hippies during the late sixties, who refer to themselves as “The Tribe” who are dealing with the changing world. They embrace love and life and continuously stand up to the establishment. We get a glimpse of a few characters who struggle to keep true to themselves and to never lose sight of their beliefs and ideals. Specifically, the only character with a genuine story in all of this is Claude. He must come to terms with his family and their desire for him to enlist and go fight for his country. Does he choose his friends and their free lifestyle, or the pressures of duty and family? It is a hard path to travel. Amongst the Tribe are various races that want to love and help change the world. Looking beyond the color of the skin, they are community first, entwined in their love and ideals.

The book and lyrics were by James Rado and Gerome Ragni and Galt MacDermot composed the music. I’m not all that familiar with them, but as a rock musical, it definitely had some great moments. A lot the numbers were fairly strong, but the numbers that stuck with me were the obvious opening “The Age of Aquarius” which was beautifully sung, starting off the production with a bang. To me, the number can either make or break a production. I was happy to see and hear it soar through the house. The other song that has been a favorite was “White Boys”. The song is fun, bubbly and all around a good time. The ladies rocked it out and you could tell they were having a blast. It was definitely an energetic number and it gave me goose bumps. "Let The Sunshine/The Flesh Failures" also makes its way into all the hearts and minds of the audience. Its delivered with so much underlying power. As its reprise comes around, you feel the energy of the house and the cast. You can't help but dance and move.

As for the performances, the Tribe was an integral part of the show and they did a good job. At points, it was hard to hear a lot of the singing from them, but I imagine a lot of it had to do with the tech and sound of the mics. Steel Burkhardt, who plays Berger, immediately jumps into the role, and into the audience. He plays a carefree jokester, playing to the crowd and seemed at ease in the role. Paris Remellard, who plays Claude, creates a very conflicted character in the show, as he carries the bulk of the story on his shoulders. We see and feel his confusion and his desire to become invisible, wanting to escape this harsh reality. However, the role that I was probably impressed with the most was Dionne, the girl responsible for “Age of Aquarius” and the ringleader during “White Boys.” Played with such raw sexuality and attitude, Phyre Hawkins nails her songs with such power and emotion. With names like that, you got to deliver. They definitely seemed like they were having a lot of fun. As for the orchestra, they caught the feel and sensations of the sounds of the sixties. They were spot on and blended well with the stage and performers.

Technically, the show is mind-blowing. The lights in every scene capture every emotion that is presented on stage. With love, the warmer colors come out, with confusion, sharper colors, and with frustration, the darker colors present themselves. I loved the lighting design of this show. One particular part is a hallucination appears on stage, and various colors are used to bring us into the world of the mind. The doubts, the frustrations and fears have colors that I never expected. It was amazing. The set also was extremely impressive. With several carpets laid about and a giant sun in the background, it’s a beautiful tapestry that has been brought to life. The set, staging and lights work in tandem. I can only imagine there were a thousand different cues at least. I was a huge fan of the effort and work that created this world.

The direction of the piece is bold yet simple. With minimal dancing but stylized movements, it works very well. As expected, the cast makes it way into the audience making us part of the show. It would be a crime NOT to have audience interaction. Its something that goes hand in hand. As I mentioned earlier, the staging of various scenes, including the hallucination, was so incredible. As I don’t want to reveal specifically what happens, everything works. There is not a bad staging choice in the moments and I felt that we were really in the plane of the mind. In a highly stylized version of the mind, obviously, its definitely a departure from everything else. I loved it. As for the ending of the show, as I don’t want to spoil anything, is something you must see for yourself. I couldn’t believe how it was done. Less is more, apparently. It worked.

“Hair” is a solid rock musical with a gaggle of performers who not only work hard to create this world, but you can see why they do what they do. The sheer joy of it is definitely present. With a powerful opening and finish, the show presents a never-ending message of sense of identity and choice, something many of us struggle with in our own lives. I love the fact that shows tour, giving a chance for everyone to see the work and love that gets put into a production of this size. For those who can’t make it to New York, it’s a chance to get a sense and feel of the energies. It’s a great experience.

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