BWW Review: THE 60'S ROCK MUSICAL HAIR OPENS IN KANSAS CITY AT THE BLACK BOX THEATRE
Join the highly talented tribe of HAIR as Padgett Productions brought the opening night to Kansas City on Saturday, September 7. This is one of the top productions of the highly acclaimed musical that I have had the good fortune to review. Return to an age of hippies, free-love, and the tribe as you enter the small newly renovated Black Box Theatre in the West Bottoms Entertainment District. If you're not ready to party, you are probably in the wrong place.
Padgett Productions was faced with adversity throughout the weeks prior to the opening night performance. Their productions are usually viewed at Immersive KC (formerly Prohibition Hall), but for this show, it was moved to the West Bottoms. Padgett felt that this venue was better suited for his vision, audience interaction, design, and placement. The Black Box had previously hosted shows from the Kansas City Fringe Festival and HAIR was the first big production scheduled at the venue.
Nick Padgett filled the roles of producer, director, and choreographer for the production. He told me that just before the doors opened, he had conducted the only full run-through of the musical with all the cast members. Fortunately for the audience and Kansas City, he performed his magic and the show went on
Gerome Ragni and James Rado wrote the book and lyrics for HAIR: AN AMERICAN TRIBAL LOVE-ROCK MUSICAL with music by Galt MacDermot and is credited with defining the genre of "rock musical". As a result of the anti-establishment movement, the 1960's sexual revolution, profanity, disrespect of the American flag, and nude scene the play received much hullabaloo. Several songs from the musical became anthems for the anti-Vietnam War movement.
The show opened on Broadway in 1968, running for 1,750 performances and had a successful London production which ran for 1,997 performances. A Broadway revival opened in 2009 and won a Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for Best Revival of a musical. Rado once said of his inspiration for HAIR as, "a combination of some characters we met in the streets, people we knew and our own imaginations."
As with other Padgett Productions, the show begins as you enter the theater. Cast members are already on stage interacting with the audience and each other. As it got closer to the eight o'clock starting time new theatergoers were introduced to the audience before they could go to their seats. The audience was boisterous in their greeting and eager to welcome each one. On Immersive KC's home page, they describe HAIR not just as a show, but as an experience. It was an experience that I was very happy to be a part of and one everyone should try to attend.
Jeff Smith was magnificent in his role as Berger the leader of the tribe. Brandon Davis is marvelous as Claude the tribe member who goes off to war. Elise Campagna is superb in her role as Sheila, the woman who lives with both Berger and Claude. Many of the cast members had solo's that were outstanding and as a group, the voices of the cast blended phenomenally.
HAIR continues through September 22. This show is suggested for mature audiences due to adult language, sexual innuendo, references to drug use, and nudity. To purchase tickets online go to immersivekc.com.
Photos courtesy of Roberto Carlos Photography.