BWW Reviews: Firehouse Theatre Project's Enjoyable HAIR Has Some Tangles
Firehouse Theatre Project opens its 21st season with the regional premiere of the "hippified" musical sensation, HAIR. With so many fantastic productions to choose from this summer, Richmond audiences are encouraged to take a trip back to the 1960s in this trimmed-cut revival of the hit Broadway show.
Upon walking into the theatre, audiences first take notice of the missing stage. At the outset, Director Jase Smith explains that a new stage is being installed following the run of the production, which has now been extended through August 2.
Where the stage is supposed to be, Benjamin Burke has strewn about dozens of area rugs, which almost works for this musical about the minimalist hippy movement; until he adds a multi-level platform, which seems better suited for a concert revival.
During opening weekend, Smith's young and energetic cast carried the show despite several technical snags. Nathan Wunderluch's innovative lighting design, complete with floor fixtures, was not quite ready for the spotlight. While one was most likely intentional, cast members were poorly lit during multiple scenes. Joey Luck's sound mixing was inconsistent at best and one soloist in particular could not be heard. (Note: these technical issues have most likely been resolved since opening weekend.)
Under Leilani Giles' musical direction, some of Richmond's most powerful young voices shine through HAIR's more than 40 musical numbers. Starr Foster's inventive choreography works in ensemble numbers like "Hashish." But most of the time, it feels disjointed and misplaced. Carolyn Meade's vocals pack a punch, but her portrayal of Dionne is held back in show-stopping numbers, like "Aquarius," by some of Foster's movements.
Leading the cast in energetic numbers such as "Manchester, England," Matt Polson brings incredible charm and beautiful vocals to the role of Claude. As Berger, Nicklas Aliff runs around with plenty of energy. An authentic-looking Woof, Ian Page is nearly unrecognizable in a standout performance. Playing multiple personalities, Paul Major steals away every moment he's on stage and really brings down the house with his cross-dressing performance of "My Conviction."
But the standout performance comes in the form of Morgan Meadows' Crissy. Her beautiful vocals are complemented by a fantastic performance when guitarist Grant Oliver joins her onstage for a beautifully stripped down rendition of "Frank Mills."
There are two weekends left to catch this enjoyable production of HAIR. Most performances have been sold out, so purchase your tickets ahead of time. HAIR now runs through August 2. Disclaimer: Due to brief nudity, HAIR may not be suitable for audiences under the age of 17.
Photo Credit: Laura Cliburn