BWW Reviews: HAIR at the Paramount
Seattle's Paramount Theatre is currently letting the sun shine in with the national tour of the Tony Award winning revival of the 60's rock musical "Hair". And while I've never been a fan of the show that much before, I can tell you that with this production I left the theater with what I can only describe as a theatrical contact high.
This revival of the groundbreaking 60's musical follows a group of young idealistic flower children as they strive to promote their views of love and acceptance in the midst of a society struggling with change and war. But beyond the principles they try to convey there is also a more specific struggle of one of the characters, Claude, as he decides whether he's strong enough to follow his free spirited friends like the freewheeling Berger and activist Sheila and burn his draft card, or go by what society and his parents espouse and allow himself to be inducted into the Army to fight in a war he doesn't condone.
So how has the revival of this somewhat dated show become more than just a nostalgia piece especially when large portions of the audience for it are too young to really remember the era? I think for two reasons. First, the storyline of fighting in a war many don't support as well as the message of love and tolerance of all lifestyles is quite topical right now and ringing true with a lot. And secondly and most importantly it's the tone and staging of this current production originally revived for The Public Theater in 2008 and directed by Diane Paulus. The show as it is now becomes so much more than a show you watch as it is a show you experience as the cast constantly is talking to and coming out into the audience and bringing them into this amazing world full of love. And I don't mean they just occasionally roam the aisles, I mean they come out into the audience as in climbing over the seats, pulling people out of their chairs and dispensing hugs like candy. Not to mention, just like in the Broadway revival, inviting anyone who wants to up on the stage at the end to dance and sing with the Tribe. And by doing this they initiate all of us into the Tribe and that's why it works. You leave the theater with such a warm positive feeling that you cannot possibly have had a bad time. But, if getting involved in a show like this is not your thing then you may want to avoid the Main Floor as I don't think there's a seat there that's safe. You'll want to stick to the balcony.
And all of these warm fuzzies come from the ample hearts of an amazing touring troupe. I wondered how a touring company would do with keeping up this bliss night after night, and city after city. But they are quite up to the task. Steel Burkhardt as Berger has enough energy and spirit for 10 leading men and the voice to match. Phrye Hawkins as Dionne belts out the opening number with power and warmth to set the perfect tone for the opening of the show. Matt DeAngelis as Woof is equal parts hysterical and touching. Darius Nichols as Hud comes across as a glorious force of nature. Caren Lyn Tackett is wonderful as the conflicted Sheila and her rendition of "Easy to be Hard" is one for the ages. Kacie Sheik is adorable as the loveable Jeanie. Paris Remillard as the torn Claude is a sight to behold. His final number was sublime both in his incredible voice as well as the heart wrenching emotion he imbued it with. And I also must mention Tribe members Marshal Kennedy Carolan and Cailan Rose whose lead in to Claude's "What a Piece of Work is Man" number was mesmerizing.
But then the entire Tribe was phenomenal and I can see how this has become so wildly popular. I don't think I've left a theater with this much joy since the first time I saw "Mamma Mia". So do yourself a favor and let the Tribe wrap you up in their blanket of love before they move on. I may have been ambivalent about the show before I went, but now, I'm happy to say I'm a member of the Tribe. But then I'm a Gemini. We're supposed to be of two minds, right?