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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

Hair Lets the Sunshine in at the Paramount

Hair
Steel Burkhart and Paris Remillard
No longer shocking in an era of Passing Strange and Spring Awakening but still packing power in its vibrant production, cast and landmark score, the national tour of the hit Broadway revival of Hair is rockin' the Paramount. Audience members range now from seven to seventy and embrace the show with open arms. Gerome Ragni and James Rado's book was always thin (and has grown more so), and more of a hook on which to hang the team's earthily appealing lyrics and Galt MacDermot's undeniably attractive and lasting music, but as dynamically directed by Diane Paulus, with exuberant choreography by Karole Armitage, it more than warrants its welcome return.

There is a vaudeville show atmosphere, more than the usual, in this Hair, and an abundance of audience involvement (perhaps a bit too much after awhile) as the tale of Claude Hooper Bukowski and his fellow hippie tribe members, led by the magnetic and irrepressible Berger, celebrate life and ultimately mourn the loss of one of their own to the atrocities of Vietnam. Because Hair went through many changes and reworkings in 1967-1968 on the road from Joe Papp's Public Theatre to the Cheetah Off-Broadway, to eventual smash hit status on Broadway, I found myself hearing songs in this production heretofore unknown to me, and as wonderful to discover as some of the less familiar Bernstein tunes in the 5th Avenue Theatre's Candide earlier this year. But, good as the score is, it wouldn't captivate the way it does at the Paramount without a uniformly excellent cast of actor/singers, who are as strong as any I have ever seen grace the stage of a touring show in Seattle.

Towering in a standout ensemble are Steel Burkhart who has the peacock strut and preen of Berger down cold and wins over the audience instantly with his rendition of "Donna," and Paris Remillard's Claude whose innate sweetness and god given voice power "Manchester, England," "I Got Life" and the moving "Flesh Failures." Caren Lynn Tackett has a musical theatre dream voice giving extra oomph to her big numbers "Easy to Be Hard" and "Good Morning Starshine," and Kacie Sheik's touching space case Jeanie delights with her take on "Air." Matt DeAngelis is a distinctive, fey and fabulous Woof who delivers a winning (if no longer shocking) "Sodomy," Phyre Hawkins as Dionne sets a high standard to follow leading the show's touchstone number "Aquarius," and Josh Lamon steals the show big=time as Margaret Mead with the wacky "My Conviction" and his big reveal at the end of the song.

Additional huzzah's to Kaitlin Kiyan (Crissy) with her touchingly lovely rendition of "Frank Mills," and Darius Nichols as Hud with his gutsy take on  "Colored Spade." There isn't a solitary cast member, even among the unnamed Tribe members, who doesn't catch your eye and ear with their soaring talent in this production (and a special shout out to talented ex-Seattle sensation Tanesha Ross for her contribution here).

Scott Pask's scenic design is tremendously effective, Kevin Adams' lighting design is psychedelically sensational, and Michael McDonald's costumes offer a vibrantly colorful time travel trip back to the age of Aquarius. Galt MacDermot's original orchestrations are as sensational as ever under the assured musical direction of David Truskinoff, and the onstage musicians are a feast for the eardrums.

Hair  has a short run, and it is a must see.  Save yourself from the regret of letting it pass you by, and rock on over to the Paramount, now!

Hair plays at Seattle's Paramount Theatre through December 4th.  For tickets or information visit them online at www.tickets.com, www.stgpresents.org or www.BroadwayAcrossAmerica.com or call 877-STG-4TIX (877-784-4849). For more information on the tour and its schedule, visit www.hairontour.com.


Photo: Joan Marcus

See the list of this season's theatre offerings in the Seattle area.



- David Edward Hughes



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