HAIR-The Tribal Rock Musical, a review

I got to time travel again last weekend. Not to 1776, like I did a few weekends ago, where a group of men were trying to change a colony into a country but to the 1960s where a group of hippies were trying to change a country at war into a place of sex, drugs, rock and roll, peace, love and understanding.

Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical, produced by Pentangle Arts, is being performed at the Woodstock Town Hall Theatre in Woodstock, Vermont. It's final days are Thursday April 26, Friday April 27 and Saturday April 28 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday April 29 at 4 p.m.. This production is directed by Joey Murray with musical direction by Rob Baumgartner. Tesha Buss is the choreographer and Carl Tallent designed the set. Woodstock's own, Holly Levison designed the costumes and Jamie Roderick and Rider Stanton were lighting and sound designers, respectively.

After an off-Broadway debut in October 1967, the show HAIR opened on Broadway in April 1968 (50 years ago!)

It was a musical broke that new ground in musical theatre by defining the genre of "rock musical", using a racially integrated cast, and inviting the audience onstage for a "Be-In" finale. Words and lyrics were written by Gerome Ragni and James Rado and music created by Galt MacDermot.

A product of the hippie counterculture and sexual revolution of the late 1960s, several of its songs became anthems of the anti-Vietnam War peace movement. The musical's profanity, its depiction of the use of illegal drugs, its treatment of sexuality, its irreverence for the American flag, and its nude scene caused a lot of controversy back-in-the day. Today we're slightly more immune to these radical things.

Pentangle's production is colorful, thoughtful and a whole lot of fun. I overheard many in the audience saying, "yes, that's what it is was like back then."

As the show opens we we see some "kids" hanging out and then a rush of people dances toward the stage through the audience, they begin their celebration as children of the Age of Aquarius ("Aquarius") led by Dionne (Leandra Ellis-Gaston). 

The tribe introduce themselves through song. Berger (Michael Viruet), an irreverent free spirit, removes his trousers to reveal a loincloth. Interacting with the audience, he calls himself as a "psychedelic teddy bear" and reveals that he is "looking for my Donna" ("Donna"). 

The tribe recites a list of pharmaceuticals, legal and illegal in the song "Hashish". Woof (Chris Cherin), a gentle soul, extols several sexual practices ("Sodomy") and says, "I grow things." Hud (Jason Tyler Smith), a militant African-American sings "Colored Spade". 

In a fake English accent, Claude (Jesse Weil) says he's from "Manchester, England". A tribe member reminds him that he's really from Flushing, New York. Then he performs "Manchester England". Sheila (Marina Laurendi), a New York University student who is a political activist sings "I Believe in Love" and leads the tribe in a protest chant. 

Jeanie (Gabriella Marzetta), a pregnant young woman, appears wearing a gas mask, singing about pollution with the song "Air". She is in love with Claude. Although she wishes it was Claude's baby, she was "knocked up by some crazy speed freak". 

After a lecture from his parents about getting a job and basically conforming to their 1950s style world, his father gives Claude his draft notice. In defiance, Claude leads the tribe in celebrating their vitality ("I Got Life"). Next up, Berger gets expelled from high school. Claude passes his draft board physical, and the tribe encounter a couple of tourists (Dominique Allen Lawson and Bryan George Rowell) who seem to appreciate the "kids" hair and alternative lifestyle. The tribe breaking into the anthem "Hair." 

The tourist couple has an interesting surprise that is revealed before they leave the "kids" after an interesting photograph gets taken.

After some tribal in-fighting, the group prepare for a Be-In at the draft induction center.  The guys burn their draft notices and Claude must decide whether to burn his or not. He chooses to enlist and sings "Where Do I Go". The tribe remove their clothes in protest (and solidarity) and the act ends. 

A rather stunned audience, slowly gets up and heads to the bathrooms and lobby. After a somewhat lengthy intermission, Berger appears on stage coaxing some applause from the returning audience. And we all travel back to 1968.

The second act opens to some tribe members who have the "Electric Blues". After a black-out, the tribe cannot find Claude and try to summon him ("Oh Great God of Power"). Claude returns from the induction center a gives out some gifts to his friends. Woof receives a Mick Jagger poster, Berger gets a coat and Jeanie gets a book.

Before the tribe goes on a long strange trip, three white women of the tribe tell us why they like "Black Boys" ("black boys are delicious..."), and three black women of the tribe, dressed like The Supremes, explain why they like "White Boys" ("white boys are so pretty..."). 

Berger gives a joint to Claude that is laced with a hallucinogen. Claude starts to trip as the tribe acts out his visions. The hallucinations get pretty weird. You'll have to see the play to see what I mean. Let's just say Abraham Lincoln, Calvin Coolidge, three witch doctors and Scarlet O'Hara make appearances.

As the night comes to an end the tribe looks up at the moon, Sheila and the others enjoy a light moment and sing the song "Good Morning Starshine." 

Reality sets in for the tribe. Claude appears dressed in a military uniform, his hair short, but he is an invisible spirit. Claude says, "like it or not, they got me." The whole tribe launches into "Let the Sun Shine In", and as they exit, they reveal Jeanie standing over Claude's coffin. 

This production was visually stunning. The costumes and lighting really set the tone for the 1960s with it's hippies and flower children.

The content features sex, drugs, nudity and violence-a good portrayal of what was happening 50 years ago.  (Note-not for younger audiences! Although they can see much the same on T.V., moives and video games today...)

Fifty years later the younger generation is trying to show the older, established generations that the world needs to change. Much has changed since the 1960s and much has stayed the same. There still exists racial, sexual, and political battles. The United States government is in chaos. High school students are taking on the National Rifle Association. Big Pharma has created a drug crisis like this country has never seen. Now we make pussy hats and hashtag slogans but the message is the same-change needs to be made-"When do we want it-NOW!"

I wonder where we will be in 50 years?

More photos from the performance: CLICK HERE

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