Thursday, June 14, 2012

theTRIBE's HAIR, at El Centro Theatre

A whole lotta love and very little grit characterize theTRIBE’s production of HAIR playing this month at El Centro Theatre. The cast’s easy interaction with the audience and abundance of buoyant energy are among the most appealing aspects of the show, which also features a psychedelic set (designed by the Tribe), colorful sixties costumes (by Linda Gomez, CSUN, & Christopher Chase), and stylish choreography by Leanna Dindall.

The biggest weakness, however, is that this is a musical filled with iconic songs that requires singers who can move you with the power of their voices, but for all the cast’s good intentions, that isn’t always the result. “Let the Sunshine In,” “Good Morning Starshine,” and the title song succeed mainly due to the strength of the ensemble’s united sound but many of the iconic pop/rock/folk numbers suffer from solo voices that are either hesitant or too frequently off pitch. They fare better in the lower part of their range where the singing is more comfortable but belting in the upper register proves disastrous in more than a few cases, especially for the caterwauling high soprano in “Hare Krishna/Be-in” at the end of Act I.

Exceptions are Berger (played by the lovable Milo Shearer) and a delicate Claude (Christopher Chase, who also directs). But in a musical that takes the audience through almost forty significant songs, not enough of the singers are able to overcome the problem...at least not at the performance I attended. Other positive exceptions include Jeanie (Melanie Whala), terrific as the quirky, pregnant singer of “Air,” in love with the unattainable Claude and fully tripping out in the joy of her character, Ronny (Mary Grace Wilson), featured in “Aquarius” and “Walking in Space,” and George Chavez, in his borderline over the top comic turn as Margaret Mead.

What theTRIBE's HAIR lacks in vocal experience it makes up for in enthusiasm and optimism for the flower power world of the hippie generation. Adjust your expectations to that and you'll enjoy the ride.  

HAIR, El Centro Theatre, 804 N. El Centro, Hollywood, now through June 24. For tickets go to www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/895.

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