Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
The use of the word "tribe" in reference to the cast is not generic; the cast of Hair is always referred to as "the tribe." Binder mentions in his director's notes that "My interpretation of this phenomenon is a tribe needs to trust each other, to feel comfortable with each other, to bond with each other more than most casts in other shows." He's not kidding. And this tribe nails it. I've rarely seen such a cohesive unit on a stage before; you can tell that this tribe loves and supports each other tremendously. Yes, it's important to have a wonderful Claude, Berger, Sheila, and the like, but this show can get very, very personal. And if you don't have that unity and strength in your tribe, Hair will simply fall apart.
Playcrafters' is a small venue, and that works well with Hair's audience interaction bits. Walking into the theater is like coming into another world. You are immediately presented with a flower, there are signs that say things like "Please don't feed the hippies," and music by Country Joe and the Fish is playing. Set designers Donna Cockenberg, Ed Rutter, and Kevin Binder have created a hippie haven; I particularly liked the flower swing, which is used effectively throughout the entire evening.
Individual performances are strong on singing, and the acting is superb. Of course, what's Hair without Claude and Berger? Stephen Barszowski Jr. (Claude) shows a range of emotions in this difficult role, torn between serving his nation and joining his friends in burning their draft cards. Vince Rostkowski knows no bounds as the boisterous, loincloth-wearing Berger and knows how to command attention when he's on stage.
Roseann Enwright is perfect as the protesting Sheila, and her facial expressions go miles in showing the character's passion for the cause. And even though Scott McMaster (Woof) has some of the most shock-worthy lines and songs (one song in particular), he does a tremendous job of conveying the deep innocence within the part. The same sense of innocence can be seen in Nicolette Adams (Jeanie) and Chelsea Aubert (Crissy), who have beautiful, melodic voices. Kuhoo Verma's (Dionne) gorgeous voice in "Aquarius" can't be beat, and Tyreese Kadle gives Hud the inner strength the role requires. Special kudos to Evan McElhiney (Evan) for his side-splitting turn as Margaret and his juggling prowess in "Good Morning Starshine"; Tyler Ivey (Cris) leads the hippie line on stilts for the same song.
Vocal director Brian Shapella and orchestra director David Deratzian make the theater come alive with some of the most popular songs written for the stage; the cast truly delivers on each and every one. My only suggestion would be to get even crazier with the title tuneI was surprised that it's as tame as it is. Get in the aisles, dance with people, play with their hair! That song is as catchy as they come.
So go for the songs, go for the fun, but most importantly, go to see this tribe. They're that good together.
Hair runs through August 2, 2014, at Playcrafters of Skippack, 2011 Store Road, Skippack. Tickets are $20 and are available online at www.playcrafters.org or by phone (610) 584-4005.