Review: HAIR: THEN AND NOW at Musical Theater Heritage

Directed by Nedra Dixon

By: Aug. 09, 2021
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Review: HAIR: THEN AND NOW at Musical Theater Heritage

Live, Indoor, Actor's Equity sanctioned, precaution observed, musical theater has returned to Crown Center. Now running through August 22 is Musical Theater Heritage's concert production of "Hair: Then and Now." The "Hair" score by Galt MacDermot with lyrics and book by Germone Ragni, and James Rado is well performed, infectiously joyous, and completely of its time.

Review: HAIR: THEN AND NOW at Musical Theater Heritage The first Broadway production of "Hair" opened in 1968 at the Biltmore Theater after an off-Broadway run as part of Joe Papp's Public Theater. 1968 is remembered as the "Summer of Love." The country was obsessed with Hippies, long hair, Psychedelic drugs, and free love. "Hair" was subtitled "The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical." It was raunchy. It was profane. It was irreverent. It featured nudity. The audience was invited to participate on stage. It took positions on race, civil rights, the military draft and the Viet Nam War. "Hair" never took itself too seriously, but as the first of many rock musicals to come, it wormed its way into our permanent consciousness. And its anthems became part and parcel of its generation.

At the time, the producers had difficulty finding a theater venue. Theater owners feared "Hair" was too far out on the edge of acceptability. The owner of the Biltmore allowed the production as a personal favor. Audiences loved it. Today, Hair in its original form seems almost a little quaint.

Many of the people who saw "Hair: Then and Now" Saturday evening at Musical Theater Heritage are old enough to have been present for the "Summer of Love." I was present as a young adult in 1968. I covered the violent demonstrations at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, knew some of the flower children, the demonstrators, a couple of the Guardsmen who responded at Kent State, and even one of the original "Hair" cast members. Review: HAIR: THEN AND NOW at Musical Theater Heritage

Director Nedra Dixon was a member of the first national touring company of "Hair" while it was still running on Broadway and in London. This young, fine sounding cast of eleven has absorbed much of the spirit of the original through the lens of Nedra. The cast is Abigail Becker, Gabriela Delano, Tyler Fromson, Camryn Hampton, Matthew Harris, Nora Hennessy, Lanette King, Austin Ragusin, Robert Vardiman, Francisco Javier Villegas, and Marc Wayne. Excellent choreography that recalls and improves on the original is provided by Kenny Personett.

Over the years, I have seen "Hair" a number of times. Part of the magic of the show is that it is never the same twice. The audience can take the show any way it wants to. The book and score has been altered any number of times since its birth. More than thirty songs were written for "Hair" (about double a standard musical) and later deleted from the score. Most famous are "Aquarius," "Let The Sun Shine," "Good Morning Starshine," and the title song "Hair."

The cast is backed up by a fine band of five with Mark Ferrell on piano, Tod Barnard playing drums, Cindy Egger on guitar, Jacob Roemer on bass and Evangelos Spanos playing Keyboard II. Costumes are by Georgianna Londre Buchanan.

This concert version of "Hair: Then and Now" is performed in the 450 seat, former Quixotic Theater, above Hall's Department Store and entered from the covered parking lot. Attendance is limited to fifty percent capacity for safety. All audience members are required to wear a mask. "Hair" continues its run through August 22.

Review: HAIR: THEN AND NOW at Musical Theater Heritage
"Hair" photos by Cory Weaver, courtesy of Musical Theater Heritage


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