BWW Review: Arizona Broadway Theatre Presents HAIR ~ The Beat Goes On But The Message Has Faded

BWW Review: Arizona Broadway Theatre Presents HAIR ~ The Beat Goes On But The Message Has Faded

I first saw HAIR in 1969 at the old Biltmore Theatre on West 47th Street in Midtown Manhattan. In the throes of the turbulent days of the civil rights and anti-Vietnam war movements and the sexual revolution. The hippie counterculture's protests and exhortations for peace were resonating loud and clear even as it stirred controversy.

When the show returned to Broadway in 2009 (winning the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical), the country had been suffering the casualties of six years of war in Iraq. (A film of the musical had been made in the meantime.) Although, America's sons were now free from the draft, there was still enough rage against the war for HAIR to resonate and certainly entertain.

Today, fifty years after its groundbreaking introduction of the rock musical genre, the revolutionary vibes of HAIR have tamed. Gerome Ragni and James Rado's lyrics and Galt MacDermot's music are now part of America's songbook and evoke more nostalgia than relevance. The beat is there, imprinted on our collective mind more by The Fifth Dimension than anything else. The urgency and emotion of that time that connected audience and actors is absent. And the Aquarian Conspiracy awaits a reawakening.

So, there's the challenge for Arizona Broadway Theatre's current presentation. Giving full credit to director and choreographer Kurtis Overby for pulling out all the stops to tease up HAIR ~ whooping flower children mingling with the audience, strobe lights, an acrobatic climb up a white drape (HAIR du Soleil!) ~ the updo is more conventional than daring.

Still, however, it's entertaining, if accepted as a string of popularized songs, performed with exuberance by the talented tribe of hippies, wrapped around a thin (but not at all trivial) story line. Standout moments include the stirring renditions by Dayna Richardson of Aquarius, Katie Hart of Easy to Be Hard, and Ryan Michael Crimmins of Where Do I Go?

HAIR runs through March 25th at Arizona Broadway Theatre in Peoria, AZ.

Photo credit to Scott Samplin

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From This Author Herbert Paine

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