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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 3, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 49
Definitely a HAIR do!
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Definitely a HAIR do!

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN Contributing Writer

HAIR
Paramount Theatre
Through December 4


Last night at the Paramount Theatre, a movement was reborn. A thought-provoking show described as disturbing, beautiful, wild, irreverent, and (to some perhaps) vulgar took over the stage and presented something truly exuberant: the musical HAIR. This national tour of the 2009 Broadway smash revival (many cast members come directly) is not one to be missed. This cast is full of a contagious energy that is literally brought down from the stage and scattered among the audience.

The story takes place in the late 1960s in a torn nation divided between generations and opinions of the current war. The lead characters are introduced: best friends Berger and Claude, and their girlfriend Sheila. But the main character is the amorphous, amorous, and highly talented group of hippies and flower children called The Tribe. At the center of the rebellious surroundings is Claude's inner struggle when he receives his draft notice. What results is an incredible journey that takes the audience on a two and a half-hour trip, allowing us to experience protests, be-ins, drug taking, and most of all a consistent political outcry for change, and a musical outpouring of love.

Steel Burkhardt's energy is perfect for the untamed character of Berger, the sort of unofficial leader of The Tribe. His voice is strong and clear while exuding a chaotic, continuous energy, making his character the epitome of charm and exemplifying the innocence of the flower child persona. His body moves with a combination of sensual grace and childlike chaos that captures the audience, and we can't help but immediately fall under his spell. Paris Remillard (Claude) does a great job of showing the inner struggles of the character. There is no better place for him to express the character's feelings than in the musical soliloquy of 'Where Do I Go,' and Remillard does not disappoint. Every word sinks in as his robust vocals show the inner turmoil between his dedication to duty and his moral conscience. Caren Lyn Tackett (Sheila) is the NYU protestor caught between the two men. She loves Berger, Claude loves her, and Claude and Berger are very close. When she sings 'Easy to Be Hard' (just one of the four top-10 hits HAIR originally produced), both her longing and vocals easily sink into the ears of the audience.

The music is a major part of this political protest. From the opening invocation of 'Aquarius' to the jubilant lamentations of 'Let The Sunshine In,' Galt MacDermot's compositions are as much a contributing entity as anyone on the stage. Most of The Tribe is given a solo at one point or another, and they all excel. Phyre Hawkins' haunting call to worship in 'Aquarius' is a gospel of the New Age. Soprano Kaitlin Kiyan's harmonies in 'Hare Krishna' are what send that song into the rafters. It is safe to say the soloists of this show, when given their chance, succeed without fail. The names among this cast will be the names of future headliners. When the cast sings as one, their voices unite, presenting an intimate musical force of joy that makes its point with a sledgehammer's subtlety.

Gerome Ragni and James Rado, two 'socially conscious actor-writers' collaborated on and co-starred in the original 1968 production. Wanting to accurately represent the times, the two wrote the script (and sometimes the lyrics) as the events happened concurrently around them. In many of the songs, they shrewdly used lyrics quoted from works of Shakespeare to evoke certain images and moods. Ragni and Rado managed to create a musically staged protest that despite its age remains extremely relevant, and still simultaneously provoking thought, outrage, beauty, and love.

When HAIR debuted on Broadway in 1968, it created a stir so strong that it reverberates 40 years later. During its collective stage incarnations, and including the 1979 Milos Forman film, HAIR has earned 10 Tony Award nominations (including a win for Best 2009 Revival) and two Golden Globe nominations for Best Musical and for actor Treat Williams as Berger.

The Paramount Theatre's production of HAIR does what it is supposed to do: it lets the sunshine in.

Contact Eric Andrews-Katz at eric@sgn.org.

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