When I first saw Hair The Musical at the Shaftesbury Avenue in London as a very impressionable young man, little did I think that 50 years later no longer young (but still fairly impressionable) would I be watching a new production in Provincetown where I now live.
The years have been kind to me, but even kinder to Galt MacDermot‘s rock music which captures that exhilarating period time without ever showing its age. The Peregrine Theater’s production of Hair The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical is jammed packed with the sheer vitality and unceasing energy that the young cast imbue with such enthusiasm as if they too had actually been on the anti-war picket lines that marked our generation.
Hair tells the story of the “tribe” a group of politically active, long-haired hippies living a bohemian life in New York City and fighting against conscription into the Vietnam War. The ‘leaders’ as such are Claude (Kevin Lagasse), his good friend Berger (Jeffrey Kelly), their roommate Sheila (Daisy Layman), and they and their friends struggle to balance their young lives, loves, and the sexual revolution with their rebellion against the war and their conservative parents and society.
As Claude discovers it is not that easy avoiding the pressures of either his parents, or a very conservative America, when he is forced to decide whether to resist the draft as his friends have done, or go serve in Vietnam, and both compromise his pacifist principles and risking his life.
McDermott wrote Hair with Gerome Ragni and James Rado and although the ‘book’ of the show is important, it is the catalogue of songs with their groundbreaking lyrics that both really define the show and tell the actual story. It starts with Aquarius : Let The Sunshine In, and includes memorable numbers such as ‘Easy To Be Hard’ ‘I Got Life‘ ‘Where Do I Go’ ‘Manchester England’ ‘Black Boys/White Boys’ and of course ‘Good Morning Sunshine’.
It is difficult to understand why the original production 50 years ago was greeted with very mixed reviews, as it also did on Broadway earlier that year. Part of the problem was possibly that the focus then was on the notoriety of the nudity which seemed to over-shadow the actual Show, and also the Country was still rather conservative. Nevertheless it still played for almost 2000 performances.
Subsequent revivals fared much better and in 2009 the Broadway one picked up both a Tony Award and Drama Desk Award.
Now in 2018, on its 50th Anniversary, the Peregrine’s exuberant production may serve as a nostalgic memory for my generation, but it works equally as a compelling way to learn about this vital period for younger generations including the talented cast of millennials who brought this whole thing to life. More important than that, what occurs nightly at Fishermans Hall is an imaginative fast-paced emotionally charged piece of very entertaining theater.
Very creatively directed and choreographed by Kyle Pleasant (who also directed Peregrine’s Chicago last year) the young ensemble cast all gave faultless pitch-perfect performances in a show which gives nearly everyone at least one spot to shine. Lagasse as Claude was more than impressive carrying the axis of the story ; Layman playing Sheila had a really stunning voice as did Rhetta Mykeal playing Dionne a role that seemed like it was made for her. When it comes to scene stealing however, then that award has to go to Alexander Tan who really milked his cameo as Margaret Mead.
The final, and biggest credit, has to go to Adam and Ben Berry who again have proved that they possess one of the biggest sets of theatrical balls in this Town. This is the second large scale piece they have now presented with such enormously high production standards and all that incurs, and thet do seemingly with nerves of steel. They make an outstanding contribution to theater in this town and with such chutzpah, and so the very least we can do is make sure that they get the audiences they so deserve.
HAIR Book and lyrics by James Rado & Gerome Ragni Music by Galt MacDermot DIRECTED BY: KYLE PLEASANT Musical Direction: Matthew Hougland July 10th - September 7th 2018
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