BWW Review: HAIR Audiences Transported Half a Century at Dallas Theater Center
Fifty years after first hitting the stage, HAIR still has a powerful message for audiences. The Tony Award-winning Dallas Theater Center's production, directed by Kevin Moriarty, allows audiences a brief visit to 1967's "Summer of Love". From the moment they enter the theater, the audience is immersed in sights and sounds straight from the hippie era. Audience members are seated on the set of the in-the-round production, where everything from shag green carpet to vintage chairs and couches scream late 1960's. To add to the mood created by the set, visitors are immediately greeted by actors and invited to share peanut butter sandwiches, receive massages, or even have their hair braided by the cast.
True to the original musical, the DTC production features an excellent selection of rock songs, and the atmosphere of the show welcomes the audience to nod their heads and sway along to classics like "Aquarius" and "Good Morning Starshine". The band remains onstage at the center of the action, giving several scenes the effect of a concert rather than a musical. For most of the show, the cast harmonizes beautifully as they wander throughout the space. One downfall of the large set and constant movement of the actors is that solo vocals often lose their power and lyrics are occasionally difficult to understand. This was most noticeable during one of the first numbers in the show, "Donna". However, the audience is quick to forgive Chris Peluso (Berger) for a few brief moments of indecipherable lyrics, as the actor scales a giant slide while clad in an American flag Speedo. And where the show's sound quality is challenged due to the in-the-round format, the lighting overcomes the hurdles of a large and multi-tiered space to truly "Let the Sunshine In".
Although HAIR forgoes the traditional story structure, it does not shy away from difficult topics. The talented cast led by Jamie Cepero as Claude (best known for his role as Ellis Boyd on Smash), expertly tackle the emotional themes of the show - which are exceedingly relevant to our modern world. In his letter from the director, Moriarty describes his sensation that although the show originated fifty years ago "...I can't help but see a mirror held up to the times in which we live." But even with this insight, Moriarty could not have predicted the most recent events which audiences will likely find themselves reflecting on during HAIR. While exploring topics such as sexuality, racial inequality, and non-violent protest it is hard not to think of NFL players kneeling on the field or tragic events such as those in Orlando, Charlottesville, or Las Vegas. Because of the structure of the show, the audience is never provided specific commentary on these topics but rather is taken through an emotional experience where they must draw their own conclusions.
For patrons who are new to HAIR, prepare not only for a history lesson, but a submersion in sixties culture from a show that bombards every sense (you will feel, smell, and perhaps even taste the show by the time you leave). Discover (or rediscover) your inner hippie as you watch the actors dance, embrace, smoke, and yes - undress before your eyes. DTC's production has truly succeeded in breaking down the wall between actors and audience. Get ready to engage in the action as you bounce a beach ball around the theater, dance in an improvised scene, or recite lines from a cue card.
So head to Dallas Theater Center's production of HAIR for the peace, love, & nudity. Stay for the interactive, multi-sensory experience and reflection on social issues. Be sure to get there thirty minutes before showtime for an opportunity to meet members of the cast and add your own graffiti to the set. Stay late for talkbacks with the actors to hear from other audience members and share your experience of the show. And be prepared to feel both disappointed and relieved when you leave the theater only to discover that the year is still 2017.
HAIR runs through October 22nd at the Wyly Theatre. Tickets available starting at $20. http://www.dallastheatercenter.org