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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

Hair at the 5th Avenue Theatre

Also see David's recent review of Some Like It Hot and Things Being What They Are

A year ago, before the country had embarked on one of the most controversial wars in our history, the 5th Avenue Theatre let the sunshine in with a spirited, spangly limited-run engagement of the Vietnam era rock musical classic Hair. Weeks after it ended a very successful run, a remount, one year hence was announced. Whether this Hair re-do, once again with director David Armstrong's exuberant and apt staging, fills houses in these dire economic amend emotional times is hard to predict. But it's a winner, worth a first look or even a return visit, thanks in part to some new blood in the tribe.

"Aquarius'" remains one of the best openers in any sixties vintage musicals, and it simply soars as headlined by Charlie Parker (promoted from last year's ensemble) whose Dionne is one of the anchors of this year's cast (and one can't help but believe that this sassy, brassy voiced songstress will be a strong possibility for the role of Effie in the Dreamgirls announced for the 5th next season). Gerome Ragni and James Rado's once bold, bawdy lyrics are often muddied by the always exasperating 5th Avenue sound system, but Galt MacDermott's melodies are evergreen pleasures, and well served by musical director R.J. Tancioco and his high-octane band.

Louis Hobson impresses anew as Claude, the caught-in-the-draft hippie hero. Hobson soars vocally on such winners as "Where Do I Go?" and "Manchester, England," and dramatically he seems even more assured this go round. Tom Plotkin offers a slick, crowd pleasing turn as Berger, Jesse Tyler Ferguson is a fey delight as the Mick Jagger worshipping Woof, and Jamie La Verdiere (an original cast member of Broadway's The Producers) returns in high camp glory to little old ladies land for his "My Conviction" solo. Other returning female leads of note are Nancy Colton as Sheila (particularly leading "Good Morning Starshine") and pixyish Precious Butiu socking across that ode to pollution "Air." David Austin is a vocal and comic standout amongst the fine, Seattle based talent who cast as the tribe members.

The physical production is happily untouched, as Bradley Reed's flower power costumes and Tom Sturge's psychedelic lighting set the perfect visual tone for the material.

There is a Broadway bound Hair revival in the offing. Its producers need look no further for casting possibilities than the talented troupe who led an opening night audience to a standing ovation here. Whether Broadway audiences (at Broadway ticket prices) will want to let Hair's particular brand of sunshine in remains an intriguing question mark.

Hair runs through Sunday May 4 at the 5th Avenue Theatre, 1208 5th Avenue, in Downtown Seattle. For further information see the 5th's web site at www.5thavenuetheatre.org.




- David-Edward Hughes



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