Sunday, August 23, 2015


Cast members of “Hair,” produced by Music Circus at the
Wells Fargo Pavilion through Sunday, perform one of their
memorable, lively numbers. Charr Crail/Courtesy photo
The moon must have been in the seventh house and Jupiter aligned with Mars because peace was guiding the planets and there was a whole theater full of very happy old hippies for the opening of the Music Circus’ final show of its 63rd season, “Hair.”

They came in tie dye shirts and dresses, in love beads, in headbands with flowers in them, and all over the theater these grey and balding folks were flashing peace signs at each other and grinning in anticipation for the start of this 1967 Tony-award-winning “Tribal Love Rock Musical,” with book and lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragni and music by Galt MacDermot, directed by Glenn Casale.

They were not disappointed. With 38 songs (most quite short), many of which have become part of rock music history, there was lots to enjoy. Songs like “Aquarius,” “Donna,” “Hair,” “Good Morning Starshine,” and “Let the Sun Shine In” should bring back memories for just about everyone in the audience.

The mood was set before the first person walked on stage, with beautiful multi- colored and shaped lanterns hanging all over the stage, creating a magical environment from the moment one entered the theater. Cell phone cameras were raised all over the place before the lights went down. In addition to the lanterns, cloth banners were hung in the back above each section of the house, onto which special effects would be projected throughout the evening. Scott Klier (scenic design) and David Neville (lighting design) worked in harmony beautiful to create a total experience for the audience.

While this show, described as a “ground-breaking musical that defined a generation and introduced rock ‘n’ roll to Broadway,” is more about music than plot, at its core it’s the story of a community struggling to find its voice, to question authority, and to change the world to fit what they feel would make things better.

One would think that with a topical show written in 1967 and centered on the Vietnam War that it might be a bit stale by today’s standards, but with the protests about ending the war and reducing toxic pollution and other issues (though I suspect the “save water, folks” sign may have been new!), the struggle seemed as fresh as if it had been written today.

This is an ensemble show more than a star vehicle, but if there is any plot, it is the struggle of Claude, the nominal leader of the tribe, who has received his draft notice. Does he go off to war, or does he burn his draft card? Oliver Thornton gives an unforgettable performance as first the devil-may-care guy who wants to be from Manchester, England, to the mellow, free-loving guy smoking pot and having acid trips, to the young man agonizing about what to do about the draft. He does it all brilliantly.

Peter Saide as Berger establishes rapport with the audience the minute he drops his pants (asking someone in the audience to help him get his leg out) and shows his fringe loincloth. He’s the guy who wants to enjoy all of his tactile and sexual pleasures without paying a price.

Others who deliver impressive performances are, Stephanie Mieko Cohen as the pregnant Jeanie, Laura D’Andre as Sheila, in love with Berger, who sings the emotional “Easy to be Hard,” Bryonha Marie Parham as the powerful Dionne, who takes the lead in “White Boys,” and James Michael Lambert as Woof, who carries the torch for Mick Jagger.

The 24-member tribe is exuberant and have such a joyful camaraderie with each other that it’s difficult not to get caught up in their enthusiasm. In fact, at the finale, several folks were picked out of the audience to come up on stage and dance with the cast.

And yes, for those who know the show and wonder if family-friendly Music Circus was going to include the brief nude scene that ends Act 1, yes they do, and it’s done very quickly and very tastefully — and the show is better for it.

Take a step back to the 1960s and see how relevant the problems of that era are to today, and how well those old songs hold up. The opening-night house was full so tickets may be going fast, but it’s well worth your time to check it out.

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