HAIRBook and Lyrics by Gerome Ragni and James Rado
Music by Galt MacDermot
Dallas Theater Center
Directed by Kevin Moriarty
Scenic Design by Jo Winiarski
Music Direction and Supervision by Vonda K. bowling
Sound Design by Broken Chord
Lighting Design by Seth Reiser
Choreography by Ann Yee
Costume Design by Karen Perry
Hair, Wig, and Make-Up Design by J. Jared Janas and Dave Bova
CAST: (in alphabetical order)
Crissy --- Monique Abry
Hud --- Ace Anderson
Jeanie --- Kia Nicole Boyer
Claude --- Jaime Cepero
Dionne --- Ayanna Edwards
Sheila --- Tiana Kaye Johnson
Berger --- Chris Peluso
Woof --- Christopher Llewyn Ramirez
Tribe --- Kevin Curtis, Joey Donoian, Kelsey Leigh Ervi, Kyle Igneczi, Valton Jackson, Quintin Jones Jr. Laura Lites, Taylor Nash, Mayte Natalio, Gabrielle Reyes
Piano Conductor --- Kwinton Gray
Bass --- KJ Gray
Guitar --- Tannner Peterson
Guitar --- Fellix Tellez
Drums --- Jackie Whitmill
Reviewed Performance: 9/28/2017
Reviewed by Chris Jackson, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Join the totally immersive love-fest happening at the Wyly Theater, thanks to the remarkable vision of Kevin Moriarty. A joyful ode to tolerance, inclusivity, primal innocence and childish wonder, this production will make you happy to be alive! Sure there’s sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll, AND the nudity everyone seems to be asking about, but the overwhelming take-away is “harmony and understanding.” Peace, freedom, love. Naïve? Maybe so, but boy, some of that naiveté’ sure looks good right now in the midst of all the division, lies and brink-of-destruction darkness covering our country.
Written in 1968, the notes on the back of the original cast album read this way: “Described by its actor-authors as a ‘non-book musical’ and by sundry shorter-haired observers as a pagan ritual, a theatrical be-in, a demonstration, a riot, a happening and a scandal,” Hair opened at the New York Shakespeare Festival Public Theater, off-Broadway in October of 1967. After a highly successful eight-week run, the show moved to the Cheetah, a Broadway building that was about to be demolished, where it played for a year. After a thorough overhaul, the addition of thirteen new songs, including “Let the Sunshine In,” the show moved to Broadway in April of 1968 where it ran for 1,750 performances. A Broadway revival opened in 2009 to strong reviews and the Tony Award and Drama Desk Awards for best revival of a musical.
Use of illegal drugs, profanity, irreverence for the American flag, its treatment of sexuality and its infamous nude scene caused lots of comment and controversy. It defined the term “rock musical” and broke new ground with its racially integrated cast and the “Be-In” finale that invited the audience onstage to participate. Despite, or because of this, Clive Barnes, the esteemed New York Times Theater Critic, called the show “the frankest show in town” and went on to say that it was “the first Broadway musical in some time to have the authentic voice of today rather than the day before yesterday.” He also called it “Brilliant,” “fresh,” “new,” “masterly,” “beautiful,” “sweet,” “subtle” and “sheer fun.”
While the show really has no traditional book, it is about Berger, who has been thrown out of high school, his best friend Claude Bukowski who is about to be drafted, their friend Sheila who lives with them and is a protester from N.Y.U., Woof, who has been barred from the Y.M.C.A. and Hud. There is also Jeanie, who is pregnant and in love with Claude, and various other members of “the tribe.”
The show is definitely an ensemble showpiece, but each member is given an opportunity to shine, and shine they do. Ayanna Edwards as Dionne and Kevin Curtis, Joey Donoian, Kelsey Leigh Ervi, Kyle Igneczi, Valton Jackson, Quintin Jones, Jr., Laura Lites, Taylor Nash, Mayte Natalio and Gabrielle Reyes make up “The Tribe.” Each is strong and brings clarity to their various characterizations. Isadora Duncan once said to Stanislavsky, “Before I go on stage, I have to put a motor in my soul.” Well, this ensemble has found their motor, and it roars with commitment and sheer joy.
The character of Claude, played by Jaime Cepero, has the story line that drives what little plot there is. Dodge the draft, go to war; run away, all are questions he must deal with. It’s to Mr. Cepero’s credit that he guides us through each option clearly and concisely. He’s young, unformed, and groping for answers and Mr. Cepero uses his clear, strong voice to sing us along each pathway. His final scene is profoundly moving and gives a gravitas to the antics we have been watching. Deeper consequences lurk beneath the beach balls, confetti, flowers and flowing hair. His character is not unlike that of Hamlet, (He sings Hamlet’s “What a piece of work is man”) and indeed Public Theater Artistic Director Oskar Eustis says, “Both [Hair and Hamlet} center on idealistic brilliant men as they struggle to find their place in a world marred by war, violence, and venal politics. They see both the luminous possibilities and the harshest realities of being human. In the end, unable to effectively combat the evil around them, they tragically succumb.”
Berger, as played by Chris Peluso entices and charms us from the very start, and makes us wish we saw more of him as the evening progresses. Because his behavior is always specific and his intentions clear, we follow this randy character gladly. Never boring or predictable, his strong presence and singing voice make us believe his characterization.
Christopher Llewyn Ramirez is Woof, crazy about Mick Jagger, loves plants, and extolls several sexual practices. “We are all one,” he says, and as played by Mr. Ramirez with great good humor and enthusiasm, we believe his outpourings of love and inclusion. Tiana Kaye Johnson is Sheila, the activist of the group, and gets to sing the wonderful “Easy to be Hard” using her lovely voice and strong acting chops to make us feel the emotions she’s struggling with.
Jeanie, pregnant by some “crazy speed freak,” and in love with Claude, is brought to vulnerable life by Kia Nicole Boyer in a wonderfully spaced-out performance. Monique Abry brings us the character of Crissy, young, innocent, and in a sweet and welcome intimate moment accompanies herself on the ukulele as she sings the tender “Frank Mills.” One of the strong points of this production is that many of the actors play instruments and use them to great effect. Hud, played by Ace Anderson, gets the wonderful line, “the draft is white people sending black people to make war on the yellow people to defend the land they stole from the red people.” The audience gave the line a huge round of applause!
Jo Winiarski designed the scenery for this production, and it is a major installation with a center performing rectangular area including a circular pit for the musicians. Four seating areas surround the space, designated as “the kitchen,” “the lounge,’ the garden,” and “the playground.” Seating is on “found” furniture: chairs, sofas, pillows, etc., and the audience gets to choose its own seats when they enter. Incorporated into the seating are playing areas for the action, including an enormous double slide. Cardboard covers the walls to be written on by patrons, shag carpet in the garden area, kitchen tiles and pots and pans in the kitchen area. It’s a hodge-podge of 60’s and 70’s kitsch and every inch of it is used by the performers at some point. It’s a wonderfully welcoming and usable space for this show.
Seth Reiser rises to the challenge of lighting this enormous space with swaths of color and moving illumination, accentuating and expanding on moments in the music with his artistry. Costumer Karen Perry has seemingly raided every consignment store in the area to pull together a fantastic collection of clothing that is not only right for the period, but right for each individual who inhabits this story. And it’s not all just late 60’s throwback either, as she gets to do some period pieces, uniforms, space suits and Hare Krishna outfits as well. All of it works wonderfully well. Finishing the total look of each character is hair, wig and make-up design by J. Jared Janas and Dave Bova. In a show titled Hair, the hair is a focal point, and this team has put it together perfectly.
Choreography by Ann Yee is seamlessly incorporated into the action, never looking imposed, but growing organically from the moment. Vonda K. Bowling is credited as music director and she has whipped this group of musicians and singers into a smashing rendition of the score. Speaking of musicians, this group of players is not just a passive accompaniment to the show, but actively engaged in the action, singing and moving at times into the action. Opening night, KJ Gray, bass, was pulled into an improvised scene where he gave a rendition of the National Anthem that brought the house down! Broken Chord does the sound design, not easy in such a complex environment.
Director Kevin Moriarty has created a unique and encompassing version of Hair, one that not only speaks to its roots, but manages to illuminate its relevance to today subtly and effectively. He uses the large stage beautifully, moving his performers in all directions, above, below and among the audience without the action feeling arbitrary. The exuberant moments soar and the quieter moments are effectively moving. Among those are Claude’s Hamlet-like moment at the keyboard, alone, and Crissy’s tender love song, also alone. The pace is fast, almost frantic at times, and yet never feels rushed. The moments build, scenes ebb and flow and the musical numbers shine. The much talked about nude scene comes about so naturally, so much of the moment happening, that it just feels right, not salacious. At the end, whether you’re seated in the “kitchen,’ “lounge,” “playground” or “garden,” you’ll find yourself coming together as one, eager to “Let the Sunshine in” thanks to Director Moriarty and his stellar cast and crew.
In writing of the 2009 Broadway revival, Ben Brantley of the New York Times could be speaking of the Dallas Theater Center production when he says that it distills “…the intense, unadulterated joy and anguish of that bi-polar state called youth,” giving us insight into “…kids frightened of how the future is going to change them and of not knowing what comes next.”
Sadly, fifty years later, Hair seems as relevant as ever in its questioning of the validity of war, politicians, society, and the uncertainty of the future. But it also gives us hope in the unflagging optimism of the redeeming power of love and the acceptance of all people as worthy of inclusion. I’m stealing a line from Variety’s review of the ’09 revival to summarize the DTC production: “What could have been mere nostalgia instead becomes a full-immersion happening. … If this explosive production doesn’t stir something in you, it may be time to check your pulse.”
“Harmony and understanding Sympathy and trust abounding. No more falsehood or derisions Golden living dreams of visions Mystic crystal revelation And the mind’s true liberation. Aquarius” Hair lyrics.
THE DALLAS THEATER CENTER
The Dee and Charles Wyly Theater
Potter Rose Performance Hall. 2400 Flora St. Dallas, TX 75201
Final Performance on October 22nd, 2017
Ticket Prices $20 - $106, subject to change. Info and tickets at www.DallasTheaterCenter.org
Box Office Phone (214) 880-0202