BWW Review: Peace, Love, and the Sun Shines in Theatre UAB's HAIR: THE AMERICAN TRIBAL LOVE-ROCK MUSICAL at Alys Stephens Center.
The moon and stars are a bit brighter in Birmingham due to Theatre UAB's production of "Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical."This trailblazing musical originally set the tone for rock musical theater. With engaging lyrics, and unrelenting counterculture, "Hair" spoke to the rising voices of youth to find harmony, understanding, sympathy, and trust abounding. Theatre UAB's tone of this production is full of the spirit of unity, youth, and enlightenment. It also has some very creative, and striking additions that really make an impact.
As you arrive you welcomed to a commune of love, dance, unity, reckless abandonment. The "tribe" of young actors work in impressive harmony as a collective powerhouse. The singers have ethereal voices that transcend time. The songs weave a tapestry celebrating rebellion, protest, orgasmic abandon, and love. If you are hung up on spirited language, sexual identity, or homosexuality, this show is not your cup of tea. This performance unapologetically celebrates love in all its shades, and flavors.
The plot of "Hair" is not one burdened with layers of subtext. It's a free flowing structure around a group of young people in a time of social unrest, and rampant expression of love.
The performance's strength is due to simplicity, and tightness of a vibrant cast. Director and choreographer Roy Lightner shines with slick, dramatic staging. He provides an abundance of surprises, laughs, and heart tugs from a very exuberant cast. The dance numbers pop with groovy choreography that keeps in pace with the iconic music from the flower children of years past. Time has not changed the message of the songs of this groundbreaking rock musical. In many ways the lyrics speak loudly to the current temperature of our nation. Lightner does an impressive job of weaving notes of 'what's happening' today into the musical. Carolyn Violi's musical direction sets sail with harmonic incense, peppermints, sunshine and moonbeams. Iconic songs include "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In", "Easy to Be Hard" ,"Good Morning Starshine", "Hair", and "Three-Five-Zero-Zero."
Austin Helmer's scenic design is an open industrial scaffolding that fills the space as a kinetic playground for these children of Aquarius to play in. There is even a "Flower Tower" lighthouse structure that is a beacon to the masses. There is a ramp running up the center gives a rock star runway for the talented performers to flow quickly into the house. This allows the cast to freely engage with the audience. Don't worry; it's not an abrasive interaction. It's warm, inviting and transfers the "tribes" signature energy perfectly. Lighting designer Kelly Allison paints swashes of psychedelic color, and electrifies the set.
The costumes are more hemp-tastic than outrageously stereotypical hippie. Sharon Morgan's costume design is free from cliché' 70's costumes that are often a crutch for this musical standard. She grounded the characters in rich, earthy tones flowing with textures, and patterns suitable for a tribal hippie summer breeze.
Spreading the groovy revolution vibrations is not a perfect science. Some of the musical numbers are noticeably stronger than others. The cast's high energy picks up the slack where the songwriters dropped the ball. One important note, treat the ending of this production like the ending of all the MARVEL films. Stay in the seats way past when you think you should leave. There is more to discover even when it seems to be over.
This current rendition of "Hair" is worth breaking out your vintage Rolling Stones T-Shirt or fringe vest and bell-bottoms. Theatre UAB has produced a wonderfully entertaining, and relevant rendition of "Hair." This musical is for the youthful spirited, and those who want to make love, and not war.
Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical
Book and lyrics by Gerome Ragni & James Rado, Music by Galt MacDermot, Directed & Choreographed by Roy Lightner, Musical Direction by Carolyn Violi, Stage Manger - Tyler Stidham, Audio Engineer - Patrick MacDonald
Berger -Justine Nelson, Shelia - Elizabeth Meckler, Woof - Diego Villanueva,Crissy - Morgan Tapp, Claude-Raymond Avelar, Jeanie - Rachel Biggs, Hud-Gary Fuqua, Dionne - Khalia Reeder,The Tribe - Nina Ballon, Ryan Charest, Joe Condon, Margaret Mead, Bailey Dumlao, Laurel Floen, Hannah Fulmore, Matthew Kelly, Søren Cassavette, Nick Linhardt, Brooke Payne, Rachel-Marie Strazza, Leah Vithoulkas
Conductor /Keyboards - Carolyn Violi, Guitar - Carlos Pino, Bass - Abraham Becker, Woodwind - Matt Barron, Trumpet - James Zingara, Percussion - David Verin, Drums - Joe Cooley
October 16-19 at 7:30pm & October 20 at 2:00pm
The Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center
1200 10th Ave South
Birmingham, AL 35205
General $15 & $20, Students $6, UAB Employees & Senior Citizens $10
For ticket info - click HERE
Content Advisory: Adult language and situations.