HAIRMusic by Galt MacDermot
Book and Lyrics by Gerome Ragni and James Rado
Greater Lewisville Community Theatre
Directed by Chris Robinson
Music Director – Pam Holcomb-McLain
Choreographer – Eddie Floresca
Set Design – George Redford
Lighting Design – Ken Davis
Sound Design – John Damian, Sr.
Costume Design – Hope Cox
Projection Design – Chris Robinson
Puppet Design – Pix Smith and The Tribe
Properties – Connie Hay, Eddie Floresca
Ronny – Victoria Bell
Paul – Jeremy Davis
Jeanie – Amanda Brooke Edwards
Crissy – Bonnie Franz
Woof – Tyler Hamilton
Claude – Quintin Jones, Jr.
Hubert – Marc Magen
Berger – Daniel Dean Miranda
Sheila – Tess Moore
Walter – Edwin Osaze
Steve – Timothy Turner-Parrish
Dionne – Sky Williams
Hud – Ecko Wilson
Pam Holcomb-McLain – Conductor/Keyboard
Randy Linberg – Drums
Brian Coleman – Guitar
Randy Honeycutt – Wind Synthesizer
Reviewed Performance: 10/18/2014
Reviewed by Charlie Bowles, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Into this turmoil and ecstasy rose a contemporary expression of the times that both shocked and thrilled America. The musical Hair arrived Off-Broadway, then Broadway, and then across America like an explosion. As an artistic expression, it blatantly spread both anti-war and anti-establishment across the stage. As a commentary on life, it adamantly preached rebellion to American youth and the counter culture. As a theater production, it spawned the rock musical genre and opened live theater to profanity, nudity, ridiculing establishment gods, questioning long-held beliefs. But it also poked a little fun at the drugs, free love and draft dodging as a potential problem for real people. It’s good to say, “make love, not war” and run away from the draft, until you realize you’ll be a fugitive from the feds. Wherever it played became a cauldron of anger and protest. Yet, it’s message eventually began to be validated, and what it challenged then has largely become commonplace today.
With music by Galt MacDermot and book and lyrics by Gerome Ragni and James Rado, Hair opened Off-Broadway in ’67 and then at The Cheetah on Broadway in ’68. In its half-century, it’s become a bit dated, even for those of us who lived through it, but its themes remain relevant as youth still rebels from their elders. Youthful rebellion signals a changing of the guard of each generation, all over the world.
Greater Lewisville Community Theatre has brought this musical to Texas without apology or dilution of its themes and images, though they’re just a bit less shocking today. The iconic songs that provided the soundtrack for my generation are still there; “Age of Aquarius,” “Good Morning Starshine,” and, of course, “Hair.” These songs have been used in commercials and other contexts, and now you can see the themes and story that originated them.
There is a story and plot through all Hair’s songs. Claude is a young man from apparent Indian heritage set to be drafted, as young men of that era were. He goes to NYC and gets in with a group of hippies who are tuning in and dropping out while burning draft cards and marching against the war. Claude must decide if he too will burn his card. It’s hard to imagine now how such a simple act could be such a big deal, but in 1968, dodging the draft was a federal crime and it sometimes got you killed. So his decision was a huge personal conflict. Claude’s best friends are Berger, the instigator of Claude’s challenge to burn his card, and Sheila, their shared roommate (with benefits). All of the characters in the musical make up The Tribe, but the story is primarily about Claude’s choice and whether The Tribe will stay true to its ideals.
GLCT’s set was a relatively bare stage. A raked platform led to a back wall and a pit allowing for entry and hiding. On top of and behind the wall was the live band. Set Designer George Redford placed scaffolding on each side, allowing actors to climb above the stage. Ken Davis lighting design used an array of multi-colored lights, spots, and projections to create color patterns and effects in pastels, earth tones interspersed with stark primary colors that punctuated every scene. There were spots and flashlights placed on actors and explosive flashes to simulate gunfire and bombs. It was an active lighting production rivaling some of the fantastical light shows I saw at concerts in ‘68.
Hope Cox dressed this cast in some of the most outlandish costumes you’re likely to see in a show these days. Wait a minute - some of those came from my closet! Yes, there were fringed leather vests on bare-chested boys, and baby doll dresses on the girls, even on a buxom, pregnant blonde. There were massive afros for black men and long straggly hair for white men and peace signs a plenty. It was the type of clothing worn by many of my friends and I can attest to its accuracy. Eddie Floresca and Connie Hay got the credit for properties, but I bet the hundreds of hand props and pieces came from people in the cast, on the Board, and in the community. There were even large puppets courtesy of Pix Smith.
John Damian, Sr. designed the sound and its many sound effects, like gunshots and bombs. Actors wore mics and, generally, I didn’t hear problems with them, though a few actors entered singing with a silent mic. But this cast sang loud, energetic 60’s rock music in front of a loud band and, with few exceptions, words were understandable and songs were well balanced in the mix. A few times the sound was too loud, but then the whole musical was over the top and loud, an expression of the times, so it wasn’t out-of-place.
Pam Holcomb-McLain directed the music and also led her five-piece band with a fantastic musical background to this familiar 60’s soundtrack. The music in Hair is late 60s hard rock, a blend of loud, driving rock with tight melodic structures and intricate word patterns. There are lots of words and it is important to hear them to understand the story, and for the most part, one could.
This is an ensemble piece where most of the cast is always on stage and either singing along or acting with the songs throughout, only exiting for quick costume changes. Ensemble numbers were near perfect musically and came across with their intended powerful emotions. Songs like “Aquarius” and “Hair” carry big sounds, and this cast sang them wonderfully. A few others which require tight solo phrases or two-part harmonies were not as precise and so came across as off-key. But then many of the songs use a long slide-form to resolve notes and I began to understand that these allow the actors to slide into their final harmonies. Whether intentional or accidental, I began to listen for those dissonant harmonies to resolve and most did. One of the great challenges of a musical like Hair, which has been around half a century and where most songs have been reinterpreted by the best singers in history, is that it’s easy for an audience to compare a live, raw performance to highly processed voices on recordings or in movies and find fault. I did. But then I attached the imperfections of this brave cast to the times I lived in and the themes of this story, and these songs sounded fine.
As in most rock musicals, there’s little dialog and lots of songs. But there is plenty of acting and dancing to go along with the music.
Eddie Floresca choreographed the production and did a marvelous job putting a lot of big, full body, physical movement by a lot of people on a small stage. There were some real dance numbers, such as the sad ballet and couples dancing within a few songs, but Floresca had this ensemble moving most of the time through most of the songs on a steep raked platform with barely enough room to stand, much less dance and move. Well done for both his choreography and for the cast pulling it off.
Chris Robinson directed a story with times of extreme exhilaration, deep angst, and extreme sadness. The Tribe represents a wide diversity of personality types, behaviors and belief systems, though they all ascribe to the hippie way of life. Each actor not only played their named parts but also played little vignette scenes as fantastical characters, especially during Claude’s hallucination sequence. Each actor discovered different levels of emotional reaction to other characters’ songs and actions and played out their reactions fully committed to their choices. Sometimes it was a little outlandish. Always it was fun to watch.
Quinton Jones, Jr. played Claude as a naïve newcomer to NYC with a hippie mentality. Claude is a bit worshiped by The Tribe and likes the attention. We saw this as Jones stood tall amongst the group, beaming proudly, crossed arms, looking for all the world like a tribal warrior. But then Jones showed the duality of Claude through periodic bravado followed by solemn reflection and worried looks when the others weren’t looking. He sung about being from “Manchester England.” His friends countered that it was more like Flushing (NY).
Berger was leader of The Tribe, supplying them with drugs and urging them towards anti-establishment activities while pushing Claude to burn his draft card. Daniel Dean Miranda played Berger as a guy who saw his new friend become popular and get everyone’s attention, but Miranda also showed a quiet confidence interacting with the group, knowing that Berger’s friends depended on him for what they wanted most, drugs and strong leadership.
Sheila was the in-between, connected to Berger by history, in love with Claude. Tess Moore revealed Sheila’s quandary about Claude and Berger through her songs and Sheila’s pursuit of Claude’s attention. But Moore’s best song came as a result of her relationship with Berger after he hurt her. “Easy to Be Hard” showed us she recognized the true colors of Berger. It was one of the best songs in this show.
The iconic songs in Hair are good, familiar and fairly easy to sing. My favorites are ones never used in a TV commercial. Jones had a beautiful solo with The Tribe as he sang about Claude’s struggle with his choices in “Where Do I Go?” Here we learned that the choice is not as easy for him as what his friends think. Several songs were sung by the whole cast during Claude’s drug-induced hallucination and some of those were really fun. I loved “Oh Great God of Power,” “Walking in Space,” and “Three-Five-Zero-Zero” most. There was something about the whole ensemble singing that appealed to me.
But then “Black Boys,” sung by Crissy, Sheila and Jeanie, was the first of a funny and funky two-song sequence about love for the men. Bonnie Franz, Tess Moore and Amanda Brooke Edwards played up the benefits and qualities of their black boys with solo verses and tight harmonies. “White Boys” was sung by Victoria Bell (Ronny) and Sky Williams (Dionne) as a jazzy counter on the qualities of their white boys and we heard Bell and Williams stretch their voices in ways Aretha or Diana Ross might. These were both hilarious and told us about diversity in the 60s.
There is a lot of humor in Hair, but it was mostly ignored when it first appeared because its message was an anthem to the musical’s supporters and anti-American anathema to its haters. Today, most of the humor is too dated to surprise us or just mundane these days. But Hair still has the power to make an audience uncomfortable. The nudity was quick and subtle, and doesn’t shock us anymore. We’re inundated with it on TV. But, in spite of its forty seven years, some of the songs and scenes are still inflammatory, such as the (careful) disrespect of the American flag, or poking fun of soldiers killed in Vietnam. That was “acceptable” during Vietnam protests, but not as much now. People could find this uncomfortable and insensitive.
The musical Hair is good entertainment. You can get an impressionistic look back at all the things happening during the era historians call an upheaval in our society. You can hear all those songs we know sung live and in context, and also hear songs of heart and soul that you may never have heard. And if you lived through this glorified time period, you just might want to put on your afro wig and beads or your leather vest and bell-bottom jeans and go relive some of your youth. Either way put some flowers in your hair and thumb a ride over to Lewisville to see Hair at GLCT.
Greater Lewisville Community Theatre
160 W. Main Street
Lewisville, TX 75057
Plays through November 2nd
Rated R for nudity, language and controversial subject matter.
Friday - Saturday at 8:00 pm, and Sunday at 3:00 pm
Tickets are $20.00 and $17.00 for seniors 65+ and those18 and under.
For information and to purchase tickets, visit www.glct.org or call the box office at 972-221-7469.