AT&T Performing Arts Center
Director: Diane Paulus
Choreographer: Karole Armitage
Associate Producers: Jenny Gersten, S.D. Wagner, John Johnson
Scenic Design: Scott Pask
Costume Design: Michael McDonald
Lighting Design: Kevin Adams
Sound Design: Acme Sound Partners
Orchestrations: Galt MacDermot
Music Supervisor: Nadia DiGiallonardo
Music Director: David Truskinoff
Music Coordinator: Seymour Red Press
Wig Design: Gerard Kelly
Production Supervision: Nancy Harrington
Production Stage Manager: William Joseph Barnes
Casting: Jordan Thaler, Heidi Griffiths
Press Representative: Allied Live, LLC
Tour Booking: Broadway Booking Office NYC
Conductor/Keyboard: David Truskinoff
Associate Conductor/Keyboard: Jared Stein
Guitar: Josh Weinstein
Bass: Frank Canino
Woodwinds: Randy Lee
Trumpets: Rodney Booth, Keith Jordan, Jay Saunders
Trombone: Tony Baker
Percussion: Sean Ritenauer
Drums: Wayne Dunton
Contractor: Debbie Brooks
Berger: Steel Burkhardt
Woof: Matt DeAngelis
Dionne: Phyre Hawkins
Crissy: Kaitlin Kiyan
Hud: Darius Nichols
Jeanie: Aleque Reid
Claude: Paris Remillard
Sheila: Caren Lyn Tackett
Tribe/Abraham Lincoln: Lulu Fall
Reviewed Performance 9/20/2011
Reviewed by Ashlea Palladino, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Vandals were running amok in Downtown Dallas. The Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center was attacked by a pack of yarn-wielding lunatics. These were my thoughts as I walked under the main entrance portico Tuesday night. A fellow critic soon nullified my preconceptions and explained to me that a local group called the Knit Wits was engaged by the Winspear to "yarn bomb" sections of the facility's exterior by covering tree trunks, park benches and concrete bollards with multi-colored sleeves of yarn ? all to pay homage to Hair (running through October 2nd).
It was the Summer of Love. Vietnam. LBJ. The draft. New York City. Sex. Weed. Enlightenment. LSD. Freedom. Oppression. Sex. Hallucination. Reality. Sunshine. Moonshine. Sex. Life. Death. Oh, and hair.
That pretty much sums up the plot (though I don't mean to make light of any of those individual subjects). Hair is credited as the first rock musical but it felt more like a rock revue than a sturdy, plot-heavy piece. Its recent Broadway revival and subsequent national tours have brought attention back to its semi-subversive (depending on your viewpoint) themes and, of course, the (gasp! sigh! nudge!) nudity at the end of Act 1. The show is more subject-driven than character-driven though a couple of actors in this production manage to stand out amongst the tribe.
As Dionne, Phyre Hawkins's was the first voice we heard during "Aquarius", and from her opening note the bar was set for the rest of the cast. Ms. Hawkins's contributions to the show ? from her bold confidence to her stellar look ? were numerous. While "Black Boys" was dull and lacked sparkle, "White Boys" was energetic and full of color thanks to Ms. Hawkins (along with Lulu Fall and Emmy Raver-Lampman).
The plot (such as it is) revolved primarily around Claude, played by Paris Remillard, a teen who was torn between burning his draft card and making his parents proud by accepting the terms of the draft. While we met Claude early in Act 1 ("Manchester, England"), it was through a series of drug-induced hallucinations in Act 2 that we began to understand his character, his fears and his hopes. The hallucination sequences, which began with "Walking in Space" and concluded with the Shakespeare-inspired "What a Piece of Work is Man" were thoroughly riveting and the strongest, most cohesive parts of the production. Mr. Remillard's vocals were sharp and unwavering, and his timing was spot on.
If you see a substantial amount of musical theater you learn to expect certain generalities, like The Musical Theater Voice. While the qualities are hard to define, it's something you identify when you hear it and it's something you recognize as missing when it's not present. Very few actors in Hair possessed this type of voice ? the kind of voice that attacked a song and stamped it as undeniably belonging to their character. The show's signature songs ("Hair" and "Let the Sun Shine In") were performed by the entire cast, and the harmonies and dynamics were absolutely beautiful. It is the solo and small group work that left me slightly disappointed, save the two actors referenced above and Kaitlyn Kiyan's work on "Frank Mills."
One item that could've contributed to the generally disappointing vocals was the overwhelming amount of raw energy required to perform this show. These actors, especially Berger (Steel Burkhardt) and Woof (Matt DeAngelis), were rarely still for more than a few seconds at a given time. Running, climbing, leaping, falling, lying, jumping AND singing sometimes didn't mix. So while it was easy to see why they were out of breath and slightly off pitch at times, it was difficult to reconcile those flaws with the cost of a ticket for the show.
While the cast may not have met vocal expectations, Costume Designer Michael McDonald, along with Wig Designer Gerard Kelly, made sure this tribe was authentic 1960's bohemian from the soles of their feet to the roots of their unruly manes. I guess I expected to see lots of tie dye so I was pleasantly surprised by a costume design that seemed more focused on dark, earthy tones and textures.
Scenic Designer Scott Pask's approach to creating a playground for these actors was straightforward, simple and user-friendly. From floor to ceiling, the rear of the stage was painted with bright starbursts of color which served nicely as a backdrop against the multi-level platforms that housed the orchestra and served as exit and entry points for the actors. These platforms were also built over and around a camouflaged Army truck through which the actors entered during sections of Claude's hallucination.
Kevin Adams's lighting design was magical and provided matchless dramatic effects, especially during "Hare Krishna" and "Walking in Space". While the music and orchestrations were fabulous (incidentally, I had a great time watching percussionist Sean Ritenauer go to town with his tambourine), I had a hard time understanding the lyrics to songs I didn't already know. The sound was fine when the actors were simply talking but the vocals and instrumentals together seemed to bog the system somehow.
I could only hope that every venue on this tour was as incredible as our Winspear Opera House. I feel a little bit lucky every time I see a show there and Hair was no exception. If you're into thick, rich plots and characters brimming with subtext?well ?you probably should've seen Gypsy while it was running at Lyric Stage. But if you can make yourself available and open to the less-than-traditional experience of Hair, you'll have a groovy blast.
HAIR (National Tour)
Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center
2403 Flora Street, Dallas, TX 75201
Runs through October 2nd
Shows are Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 7:30 pm with matinees on Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00pm
Tickets range in price from $50 to $150 and may be purchased online at www.attpac.org or by calling the box office at 214-880-0202.