Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Landmark Musical Theatre is a presenting a bold production of Hair, with book and lyrics by Gerome Ragni and James Rado and music by Galt MacDermot. I have seen this musical many times in the 50 years since it premiered, including at the Biltmore Theatre in New York, the Aquarius Theatre in Los Angeles, and in London, plus numerous regional productions. This production has more heart and emotion then many of the current musicals I have seen. Director Jonathan Rosen is be commended on putting his heart into this production.
Hair broke new ground for musical theatre in terms of its depiction of the hippie culture of the late 1960s. It was a radically modern approach to the culture of sexual freedom and drug use. Hair was more than just a musical, it was a social and cultural phenomenon, a euphoric assertion of life and freedom and a cry of protest against politicians. It is still relevant today as America is going through changing times.
Hair takes place in 1967 at the time of the Vietnam War and focuses on Claude (Domonic Tracy), the son of uptight parents who tell him to join the real world of work and military induction. Claude emotionally dreams of "Manchester, England" as an origin of pop culture. He has become part of a free-loving hippie tribe. Claude gets caught up in a three-way relationship with the debatable Sheila (Corrie Farbstein) and the rebellious Berger (David Erik Peterson). But, torn between his tribal loyalty and inherent convention, Claude fails to dodge the draft. He ends up uniformed and another pointless sacrifice to the war.
The score contains more than 30 songs, some numbers being better than others. It features the all-time greats "Let the Sun Shine In," "Aquarius," and "Good Morning Starshine." The high point of the evening is the transformation of Hamlet's "What a Piece of Work Is Man" into a rock song sung gloriously by Austin Yu and Brandon Brooks. "Sodomy" is sung sexually by Pablo Soriano and the Tribe. I also enjoyed "I'm Black," sung with great energy by Dave J. Abrams. He was pulsating singing "Colored Spade" and "Eyes Look Your Last." I would say Dave is a young Ben Vereen and a bit of a Sammy Davis Jr. Margaret Mead is a character in the show, played here with great gusto by John Charles Qiumpo, singing out vibrantly "My Conviction." The Tribe rocks with "Hare Krishna" and "Hashish." Corrie Farbstein as Sheila beautifully sings "I Believe in Love" and "Good Morning Starshine." As Berger, David Erik Peterson gets his moments to shine by brightly singing "Donna" and several other songs.
I salute the gushing energy of this cast led by Domonic Tracy, who brings depth to Claude. Corrie Farbstein shines as Sheila, David Erik Peterson as always stoned Berger radiates a camp charisma, and Marla Cox as Dionne is a ball of roaring liveliness. Jennifer Lee Ho's choreography is the best I've seen this year (Jennifer was in the original San Francisco cat of Hair). John Hollis, who leads the eight member band, rocks.
Hair is part of my yesterdays and this production gives the show jubilant new life. The musical celebrates a period when the joy of life was pitted against the force of narrow-mindedness and the military-industrial complex. The same could be said of today.
Hair runs through August 27, 2017, at the Great Star Theatre, 636 Jackson Street, San Francisco to purchase tickets on line landmarkmusicals.com.