Review Roundup: Geva Theatres's Production Of HAIR

Review Roundup:  Geva Theatres's Production Of HAIRGeva Theatre Center presents Hair, with book and lyrics by Gerome Ragni and James Rado, music by Galt MacDermot, directed by Melissa Rain Anderson, with musical direction by Don Kot, and choreography by Liz Ramos in the Elaine P. Wilson Stage from September 4 through October 7.

The original love-rock musical celebrates the Sixties with songs such as "Aquarius;" "Good Morning, Starshine;" and "Let the Sunshine In." Claude, Berger, and their free-spirited friends balance their bohemian lives with their rebellion against the Vietnam War and The Establishment. It's the summer of love in all its barefoot, long haired, bell-bottomed, beaded and fringed glory.

Conceived by actors Gerome Ragni and James Rado (a Rochester native) in 1965, with songs composed by Galt MacDermot, Hair became the musical that defined a generation. It was chosen by the New York Shakespeare Festival's Joe Papp as the opening production for the new Public Theater (the theatre that would go on to produce landmark works of theatre such as A Chorus Line, Hamilton, and Fun Home). Hair opened on October 17, 1967 at the Public where it ran for a limited engagement of six weeks. In December of that year, Chicago Businessman Michael Butler and Papp moved the show to The Cheetah, a disco at 53rd and Broadway, where it ran for 45 performances. Between its closing at The Cheetah and its Broadway opening at the Biltmore Theatre in April 1968 produced by Michael Butler, Hair went through several revisions including the addition of thirteen new songs. Among the cast who appeared in Hair during its original Broadway run were Diane Keaton, Melba Moore, Ben Vereen, Keith Carradine and Meat Loaf. The production ran for 1,750 performances and was nominated for two Tony Awards including Best Musical. The London production, which opened in September 1968, ran for nearly 2,000 performances. A 2009 Broadway revival won the Tony and Drama Desk Awards for Best Revival of a Musical.

Making their Geva debuts in Hair are Michael Burrell (National Tour of Amazing Grace and Meet Me in St. Louis at MUNY) as Claude; Joshua Carey (Off-Broadway production of The Imbible: A Spirited History of Drinking) as Woof; Joe Chisholm (Off-Broadway's Afterglow) as Berger; Manna Nicholas (Broadway productions and national tours of Allegiance and The King & I) as Crissy; Jamal Shuriah (NYC's On Kentucky Ave) as Hud; Cherise Thomas (National tour of Disenchanted and Chicago productions of Hair and Dreamgirls) as Dionne and Lawson Young (Broadway production of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas) as Jeanie. Returning to Geva are Jacob Hoffman (Geva's 2016 production of Monty Python's Spamalot) as Margaret Mead; and Chiara Trentalange (Barrington Stage's The Royal Family of Broadway, Anything Goes at Goodspeed Opera House) as Sheila, and Ensemble member Xavier Reyes (West Side Story at Westchester Broadway Theatre and La Cage aux Folles at Ivoryton Playhouse) from last year's sell-out production of In the Heights. The ensemble features David André (NYC workshop of We Are Here, and Ragtime at Pennsylvania Theatre Festival); Gabrielle Beckford (Crowns at the McCarter and Long Wharf Theatres); Katelyn Brooks; Kevin Curtis (national tour of A Chorus Line and Off-Broadway's Invisible Thread) who also serves as Dance Captain; Brent Hammes; Mary Katharine Harris (Lincoln Center's I Create and Rosemary and Time at Paradise Factory Theatre), Tavia Riveé (Cirque de Soleil's Michael Jackson One, 2nd national tour of Motown the Musical), and Rocky Vega (My Lingerie Play at Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre and Peer Gynt at Ma-Yi).

Hair is directed by Melissa Rain Anderson (last season's sell out production of In the Heights, 2016's opening production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, the 2015 sell-out hit production of Monty Python's Spamalot and 2014's The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) with musical direction by Don Kot and choreography by Liz Ramos. The creative team includes Adam Koch (scenic design), Kevin Copenhaver (costume design), Brian J. Lilienthal (lighting design), Danny Erdberg (sound design), Bettie O. Rogers (wig design) and Jenni Werner (dramaturg).

The 2018-2019 Season is sponsored by ESL Federal Credit Union and Rochester Regional Health. The Honorary Season Producer is Dr. Dawn Lipson. Hair is produced with support from Lead Co-Producer Flaum Management Company, Inc.; and Media Sponsors 13WHAM and WARM 101.3.

Let's see what the critics have to say!

Marcia Placito Murphy, Democrat and Chronicle: Overall, this is a genuinely tribal show in which the spirit of the ensemble is greater than any individual. Yet there were some standouts: the brass-lunged Cherise Thomas as Dionne, who reaches the upper stratosphere of vocal perfection in the opening number, "Aquarius," and Lawson Young as the charmingly pregnant Jeani who steals hearts in her rendition of "Air" with Thomas and Manna Nichols as Crissy. Kudos also to Joshua Carey as Woof and Jamal Shuriah as Hud in "Ain't Got No" and "I'(M) Black."

Colin Fleming-Stumpf, BroadwayWorld: The music coming from both the stage and the pit couldn't have been of a higher quality. Well-known songs such as "Age of Aquarius" and "Let the Sun Shine In" sound as good as or better than the original Broadway recording, and lush vocal numbers like "Frank Mills" are beautiful and heartfelt. Just as impressive as the onstage musical talent are the sounds coming from the pit. Musical Director Don Kot marshalled the tightest, grooviest, funkiest musicians to fill out the band, and I could have listened to them by themselves for hours.

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