Hair is back and more relevant than ever, much to director Diane Paulus’ simple yet inspired direction that doesn’t take the musical on any ironic, modern angle, but lays it bare as a look back in history to the times when a generation of change was still possible. The original Hair was produced forty years ago, and back then, there was a disliked President, an unnecessary war, and the people were looking for change. The national tour re-introduces us back to Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical which had been denounced as dated and irrelevant but maybe it was just the way it had been presented before (in subsequent revivals, regional theatres and high school gyms), but from the moment this production began it touched my heart, my soul and reinvigorated my inspiration to change the world.
Stepping in for Phyre Hawkins, Tanesha Ross takes the stage to sing “Aquarius” with the other hippies crawling into the theatre from every angle possible, the theatre became electric, and the musical of vignettes that tells the stories of the hippies that try to rebel against the draft, the status quo, the bourgeois life and the Vietnam War was on speed (in both senses of the word), flowing from one scene and song to another in a hallucinatory, and often hilarious, theatrical presentation that painfully crescendos into its dark final cry-for-help anthem “Let The Sunshine In” (often mistaken for a lightened happy song, but here is presented in its proper context).
The top-notch cast of youthful energy is led by the squeaky clean Paris Remillard, who embodies the confusion and wannabe hippie Claude from “Manchester, England” England (but is really from Flushing, New York) and he takes full emotional reign of trying to belong with his outcast friends and reject the normalcy of his parents, but ultimately, decides to join the army.
Nicholas Belton, covering for Steel Burkhardt is terrifically limber as the extrovert Berger. And to find out just how extroverted he is, just sit in some of the front few rows. Belton weaves through the crowd, crawling over chairs and playing with audience members. His presence on stage is undeniable.
Darius Nichols and Matt DeAngelis are great as Hud and Woof. Nichols shows incredible range through belting high notes and letting his low register resonate around the theatre walls. While DeAngelis’ plays Woof, wonderfully balancing the gentle soul and comedic genius with his crazy wolf cry.
With most musicals it seems the female vocals almost always outshine their male counterparts; however, such was not the case, as the most memorable vocal moments came respectively from males in this production. That is not to knock the vocal chops of the ladies.
Hair has taken a bit of a beating for its most infamous nude scene at the end of the first act, where the cast completely disrobes (with incredibly subtle lighting that makes the moment all the more thoughtful), however, it took my companion nearly the entire moment to realize there was even nudity happening on the stage. The moment is indeed very powerful and if handled correctly the nudity is almost a second thought.
There is just so much to love, learn and appreciate about this touring production of Hair, from the simplicity of the set, from the superb and effective lighting, to the power of hearing the full chorus and band sing the anthemic songs. This was how Hair is should be seen and heard. Hair should be an unbelievable experience. It’s the re-birth of the original rock musical and one that re-awakens the spirit of peace, love and joy that should never be forgotten again.