Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Hair"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

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note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Carl A. Rossi


"HAIR"

by James Rado and Gerome Ragni
music by Galt MacDermot
directed by Bill Doscher
musical direction by Mario Cruz
choreography by Laurie Fisher

Set Design by Steve Orr
Scenic Design & Paint by Jason Tennis
Costume Design by David Alger
Costume Assistant Judy Maggs
Lighting Design by Paul O'Shaughnessey
Sound Design by Jason Sheehan, Sandi McDonald
Properties by Janica Barrett, Carol Pyper, Rachel Moliere
Co-Producers Sandi McDonald, Carol Pyper
Assistant Stage ManagerCarol Pyper
Stage Manager Vicki Taylor

Woof … Rishi Basu
Crissy … Rachel Baum
Hud … Santio Cupon
Berger … Jeffrey Charles Marcus
Claude … Mike Mosey
Sheila … Susan Rubin
Jeannie … Lauren Sprague

The Tribe:
Mitzi A. Dorbu; Elizabeth Doran; Michael Glashow;
Rebecca Autumn Glucklich; Rob Guptill; Tara Lynn Jewett;
Laura Kandziolka; Eleza Kort; Ben H. Kram; Rachel Moliere;
Maaak Pelletier; Danielle Schulman; Noah Tobin; Rydia Q. Vielehr

HAIR, the American Tribal Love-Rock Musical, is now 40 years old and grey about the temples but has sweetly aged into its own little time capsule. Sweetness is what HAIR was all about, anyway; in his book THE SEASON, William Goldman commented that if mainstream America was too scared to encounter real-life hippies, it could safely view them at a distance through HAIR where Love, Love, Love rules, marijuana is the favored drug, and isn’t War a sad fact of Life? James Rado and Gerome Ragni’s non-libretto was innovative in its day, evoking a Happening taking place, like, now, man, with its plot-thread of Claude being drafted weaving throughout the hippie mood, lifestyle and vision, and Galt MacDermot’s score remains a breathtaking, groovy thing, as endlessly inventive as Virgil Thompson’s wonders with Gertrude Stein’s opera-librettos, several decades earlier, with each HAIR-number boasting its own shape and sound. Those who continue to praise Mr. Sondheim as the Great Innovator must confess that the Messrs. Rado, Ragni and MacDermot began the deconstruction of the American Musical, first, the difference being that their energy went into society and changed it whereas Mr. Sondheim’s drew society into him and colored it --- the HAIR trio entertained, shocked and enlightened with its cheeky-friendly satire and endless, melodious songs which include “Aquarius”, “Hair”, “Easy to Be Hard”, “Good Morning, Starshine”, and “Let the Sunshine In”, and, yes, War remains a sad fact of Life be it in jungles (then) or in deserts (now), and HAIR has enough little parallel jolts to keep it from being a mere nostalgic romp, today.

How odd that none of Boston’s professional theatres have celebrated HAIR’s 40th anniversary when other theatres, nationwide, have done so; instead, Jamaica Plain’s Footlight Club --- “amateur but not amateurish” --- is doing a mighty little job with it, and Bostonians should gratefully, thankfully attend for its visibility, alone. The Footlight evening isn’t perfect --- the body rhythms of its young ensemble are more cautious and kindergarten than rebellious and tribal, and some suggest that their cell phones are never far away --- but director Bill Doscher, musical director Mario Cruz and choreographer Laurie Fisher draw so much magic from a largely untrained cast (movement-wise) that only a Scrooge would care to grumble, throughout (to me, the acid test is “Three-Five-Zero-Zero” and it’s a true trip at the Footlight, thank you); their production may lack polish but so did the original Flower Children and, thus, enough of Footlight’s Now finds its way back to HAIR’s Then. The ensemble’s strength is two-fold: firstly, Mr. MacDermot’s score is beautifully, if obediently, sung; secondly, how moving to watch these young people, raised in a terrifying world, tasting HAIR’s peace, brotherhood and (reasonable) protest, finding it all quite palatable and letting the sunshine into their own hemmed-in souls. Yes, yes, Act One ends in an all-nude finale, dimly staged but, again, how wondrous to see the cast shed both clothes and armor when today’s society offers no reason to do so --- when this production closes and its stage-hippies go their separate ways, may some of HAIR’s tests and lessons trail behind them…

That said, the most believable performances come from those who blend their energy with the correct period look: thus, Jeffrey Charles Marcus’ Berger and Rishi Basu’s Woof dominate the Tribe: Mr. Marcus is clearly the leader, hyper but friendly à la Mickey Dolenz, and Mr. Basu, a warm, bear-like fellow, is the ideal sidekick. Among the numerous young women, Lauren Sprague’s Jeannie is properly abrasive and Rachel Baum’s Crissy (“Frank Mills”) is thin enough, no, gaunt enough, to suggest a life of living on the streets, hand-to-mouth. The packed house --- the fullest I’ve seen at the Footlight, yet --- enjoyed themselves down to the handclapping, aisle-dancing finale; those with a sharp eye may notice that the familiar Comedy mask hanging over the Footlight proscenium merrily sports a joint and a flower-necklace: if Comedy can groove with HAIR, so can Bostonians --- HAIR’s 40th anniversary is almost over and Beantown’s theatres have proven to be just as reluctant to touch it now as it did, then.

Peace.

"Hair" (2-17 November)
THE FOOTLIGHT CLUB
Eliot Hall, 7A Eliot Street, JAMAICA PLAIN, MA
1 (617) 524-6506

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