Regional Reviews: Los Angeles
Also see Sharon's review of Stories by Heart
It opens full-strengthPhyre Hawkins's Dionne shows up sporting a big Afro and wielding an even bigger voice, as she transports the audience to the age of Aquarius. And as we get our first looks at this "Tribe" of hippies, everything about this production looks right. The actors aren't all sporting six-pack abs; the costumes (Michael McDonald) look like they've been lived in; the choreography (Karole Armitage) looks like organic expressions of exuberance; and the wigs (Gerrard Kelly) look like the entire company hasn't had a haircut in ages. But what really makes the show shine is that this company looks for all the world like they really, truly believe in this material. Being part of this show seems like anything but a paycheck and an Equity tour for this group of actorstheir program bios are less about credits and more about beliefsand their commitment to the values that motivate the Tribe make Hair not the dated museum piece it could be, but a vibrant, timely show with message.
And it is timely. How can you listen to Hud's introduction, rattling off insulting racist terms in "Colored Spade," without thinking about the current attempt to remove the "n-word" from Huckleberry Finn? And when the Tribe suggests Claude avoid the draft by telling the Army he's gay, it's hard to not think that an open admission of homosexuality would've gotten someone kicked out of the military up to about a week ago. You only have to read the news to realize that America can certainly use a dose of peace, love and tolerance, and Hair does everything it can to make you want to join the Tribe.
The company is uniformly vocally strong, and there are some good characterizations going on here as well, particularly Steel Burkhardt as the friendly and sometimes overzealous Berger, and Paris Remillard as the charismatic, life-affirming Claude (whose "Where Do I Go" at the end of the first act is so engaging, you may miss that the rest of the cast is getting naked behind him). Kacie Sheik finds humor in the pot-smoking, pregnant Jeanie; and Josh Lamon is quite effective in a couple of roles. I wasn't really feeling Caren Lyn Tackett's Sheilaher fight with Berger is the first time we see dissent among members of the Tribe, and I would've preferred that her "Easy to Be Hard" be a bit more reflective and a bit less of a vocal showcasebut it's a small quibble with an otherwise extraordinary first act.
The energy wanes a bit in the second act, particularly in a surrealistic drug trip. But there's still enough to keep you engaged"Black Boys" and "White Boys," in particular, got the audience cheeringand both the ending and the post-curtain call reprise are moving, each in its own way. Hair still packs an emotional punch, but refuses to let you leave without a good dose of infectious optimism.
The Public Theater -- Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director; Andrew D. Hamingson, Executive Director; Nederlander Productions Inc.; Carl Moellenberg/Wenlarbar Productions; Rebecca Gold/Myla Lerner; Rick costello; Joy Newman & David Schumeister; Paul G. Rice/Paul Bartz; Debbie Bisno; Christopher Hart Productions; John Pinckard; Terry Schnuck; Joey Parnes; by special arrangement with Elizabeth Ireland McCann present Hair, The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical. Book & Lyrics by Gerome Ragni & James Rado; Music by Galt MacDermot; Scenic Design Scott Pask; Costume Design Michael McDonald; Lighting Design Kevin Adams; Sound Design Acme Sound Partners; Orchestrations Galt MacDermot; music Supervisor Nadia DiGiallonardo; Music Director David Truskinoff; Music Coordinator Seymour Red Press; Wig Design Gerard Kelly; Production Supervisor Nancy Harrington; Production Stage Manager William Joseph Barnes; Casting Jordan Thaler, Heidi Griffiths; Press Representative Allied Live, LLC; Tour Booking Broadway Booking Office NYC; Associate Producers Jenny Gersten, S.D. Wagner, John Johnson; Choreography by Karole Armitage; Directed by Diane Paulus.