Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Stars Align for HAIR at the Pantages

Hair
National Tour Cast of HAIR. Photo: Joan Marcus

When HAIR: The American Love-Rock Musical first opened on Broadway in 1968, it epitomized the anti-establishment protest and peace-seeking rebellion of a generation. The hippie counterculture movement happening in the United States in the 1960s marked the beginning of a worldwide social revolution. Chants of “Make love, not war,” and Hell no, we won’t go,” grew in resistance to the ongoing Vietnam War. Young men burned their draft cards, mind-altering drugs like LSD fueled the sexual revolution of free love, and “women’s lib” became a commonplace phrase.

The Broadway revival of HAIR is playing through January 23rd at the Pantages Theatre and you can experience for yourself the transcendental headiness of Gerome Ragni, James Rado, and Galt MacDermot’s Tony Award-winning musical. This is a revival worthy of the original, directed by Diane Paulus with an earthy authenticity that captures the human being-ness of the characters as well as the time period.


“This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius,” sings Dionne (Phyr Hawkins), as the tribe slowly begins a harmonic convergence of sound and bodies that moves through the audience to the stage. Through a series of songs delivered revue style, members of the tribe relate their nonconformist views about sex (“Sodomy,” “The Bed”), drugs (“Hashish,” “Walking in Space”), racial discrimination (“Colored Spade,” “Black Boys,” “White Boys”), war (“Three-Five-Zero-Zero”) and even hope (“Aquarius”).


Many were recorded by popular artists of the day, further securing their iconic status in the musical world. Songs like “Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In” (The 5th Dimension), “Easy To Be Hard” (Three Dog Night), “Hair” (The Cowsills) and “Good Morning Starshine” (Oliver) will resonate strongly with audience members that grew up hearing them on the radio.


Hair
Paris Remillard, Matt DeAngelis and the cast of HAIR
Photo: Joan Marcus


The story follows threesome Berger (Steel Burkhardt), who has recently been expelled from high school, Sheila (Caren Lyn Tackett), his anti-war activist girlfriend, Claude (Paris Remillard), a beautiful boy with a moral dilemma of whether or not to go to war, and their group of fellow dropouts from society.

Among them are Jeanie (Kacie Sheik), a pregnant pothead with environmental concerns, Hud (Darius Nichols), a black-militant, Woof (Matt DeAngelis), who loves everyone, especially Mick Jagger, and Crissy (Kaitlin Kiyan), a sweet, young innocent looking for a boy she met named Frank Mills.

Scenes follow in which the tribe explains the significance of their long hair to a couple of tourists, they stage a Be-In where the boys burn their draft cards, and Claude experiences a harrowing hallucination of war during a bad acid trip. By the time the final scene takes place, the ugly reality of war has become evident. Amid the falling snow, the tribe sings the final strains of “Let The Sun Shine In,” acapella, as they slowly walk off the stage through the audience and the final message is revealed. I have to say it is one of the most chilling moments I’ve experienced in the theatre.


This is a true ensemble show and, without exception, the actors in this production are sensational, breathing life into HAIR with every ounce of irreverence and innocence they have in them. Burkhardt’s bad boy Berger is deliciously sexy in a little boy lost kind of way and Remillard personifies the tortured, romantic Claude with a genuine charm that makes his journey all the more poignant.


Musicians play, not from the pit, but from up top a hippie pick-up that’s part of the vividly colored set designed by Scott Pask. Psychedelic lighting by Kevin Rorms and splashy 1960s costumes by Michael McDonald help create the bohemian street atmosphere, and Karole Armitage’s choreography is incredibly effective, with each actor displaying a unique individuality that ultimately creates a kind of organized chaos of bodies.

Hair/Pantages
Photo: Chelsea Lauren/Getty Images North America

Many members of the original cast of HAIR attended the opening night performance, joining the cast onstage for the uplifting reprise of “Let The Sun Shine In” that concluded the show. The singing, dancing lovefest was a brilliant tribute to the hippie subculture of the '60s.

HAIR runs through January 23rd at the Pantages in Hollywood. Tickets are available online at
www.broadwayla.org.

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