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A CurtainUp Berkshires Review


When the moon is in the Seventh House
and Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars

-- opening of Hair's anthem song, "Aquarius."
The staged concert version of Hair, uses three scaffolded platforms on wheels to accommodate the fully costumed cast and the band. (Photo: Kevin Sprague )
Don't expect the subtly lit nude scene that gave this show so much of its buzz forty years ago! The idea of Barrington Stage's concert version is to focus on the songs -- not just the best known but the entire score. Director Bill Castellino and the exuberant members of Barrington Stage's "Tribe" accomplish this aim with infectious verve.

The performers look fairly authentic 1960s counter-culture in Guy Lee Bailey's costumes, though they seem a bit too fresh out of the shower with neatly styled hair for lyrics like "Long as God can grow it, My Hair!/ Let it fly in the breeze and get caught in the trees/Give a home to the fleas in my hair. . ." They are of course too young to have any first-hand acquaintance with the origins of the show that first rocked at the Papp Public Theater in downtown Manhattan (tickets cost $2.50!). Nor are they old enough to have seen it when it moved uptown to Broadway's Biltmore Theatre for 1,742 performances with early Tribe members played by Heather MacRae, Melba Moore, Keith Carradine, Joe Morton, Diane Keaton (as a waitress), as well as the show's librettist-lyricists. The same was true for many people at Barrington Stage's opening night performance. They appeared to be divided between those eager for a chance to see this slice of our cultural history that they only know through recordings, as well as those who were teens or parents of teens during those bra-burning, "no-no-we-won't go" days that seeded Hair.

Whether you're seventeen or seventy, you'll probably agree that this latest incarnation of the musical with a plot as light as its rock score, is an authentic piece of musical Americana that captures the musical and political-philosophical zeitgeist of a now grown-up generation. The songs may not all have quite the staying power of "Aquarius" and "Let the Sunshine In" but then lyricist librettists Gerome Ragni & James Rado and composer Galt MacDermot aren't Rodgers and Hammerstein (who is?) and more often than not people think they remember a show's entire songbook when they can actually hum or sing only a few.

Both the big hits and the lesser known songs are in good hands at Barrington Stage. Director Castellino has assembled a group with powerful voices to play the most well-defined members of the Tribe. Dana Steer stands out as Claude, the headed for tragedy central character who speaks with a Beatles accent but actually comes from Flushing, Queens and introduces the much reprised "Manchester, England." Ryan Link also stands out as Claude's buddy Berger, as does Denise Summerford as Sheila. But it's almost unfair to single out anyone from this energetic, committed cast.

As artistic director Julianne Boyd explained at last Friday's opening, the model for this production is the popular New York Encores series that marked the first step in its long-running Broadway tenure for still playing revival of Chicago and which actually did its own version of Hair not too long ago, as did Reprise, the Los Angeles counterpart of this series. The Encores style has the actors in costumes, the flavor of the setting evoked with minimal staging with a place for the band right on stage. In this instance, Brian Prather uses three scaffolded units on wheels for the cast to position themselves on the shelves and the band is tucked into the middle section. A white cloth dropped down from the top level is very effectively used as a projection screen and for some snappy choreography (also by director Castellino). D. Benjamin Courtney's lighting is terrific. The band, not so incidentally, is outstanding and the Mahaiwe's acoustics superb -- and this should also be true when the show completes its run at Barrington's new home, the Berkshire Music Hall.

Though there are love triangles, friendships, and even death, Hair is basically less a plot-driven show than a musical rumination about celebrating life through free love during the turbulent 1960s. If it seems a bit too much like homogenized comfort food, that's less because it's dated than because this is basically what it always was. Yet Hair did cause much controversy and some violence when it went on the road. and with parents once again asked to send their children off to an unpopular war, uncomfortable parallels between then and now are inevitable, especially when you hear lines like the following:

"Why do I live? Why do I die?
Tell me why... Tell me where do I go?
Tell me why... Tell me where...
Tell me why... Tell me where...
Tell me why!"

Why indeed!?

Hair: The American Tribal Love Rock Musical
Book and Lyrics by Gerome Ragni and James Rado
Music by Galt MacDermot
Director/Choreographer: Bill Castellino
Cast: Dana Steer (Claude), Ryan Link (Berger), Denise Summerford (Sheila), Lori Eve Marinacci (Chrissy), Lisa Vidas Consolacion (Dione), Leonard E. Sullivan (Walter), Charlie Mechling (Margaret Mead), JD Goldblatt (Hud), Kelly Wilson (Jeanie), Jimmi Kilduff (Woof). The Hair Tribe members comprise Ngozi Anyanwu, Patrick Carlyle, Inuka Nyota Griggs, Bettina Tyler-Lewis, Charlie Mechling, Lisa Vidas Consolacion, Maurice Emmanuel Parent and Leonard E. Sullivan.
Brian Prather Llighting Design), (costume design) and Dennis J. Arcano (music director). The latter will lead a four-piece rock band.
Set Design: Brian Prather
Costume Design: Guy Lee Bailey
Lighting Designer: D. Benjamin Courtney
Sound Designer: Brett Moore
Music Director: Dennis J. Arcano, with a 4-piece rock band that includes Jake Siberon, Jonathan Suters and Roger Post.
Running Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes, with intermission
Barrington Stage production at the Mahaiwe Theater in Great Barrington from August . 3 to August 7, 2005 at the Mahaiwe in Great Barrington and at the company's new home, the Berkshire Music Hall in Pittsfield from August 10 to August 17, 2005 -- Box Office: (413) 528-8888.
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings at 7:30 PM and Saturdays and Sundays at 3 and 7:30 PM.
Tickets: $20-$40.
Reviewed by Elyse Sommerbased on August 5th opening
Musical Numbers
Act One
  • Aquarius/Ronny & Tribe
  • Donna/Berger & Tribe
  • Hashish/Tribe
  • Sodomy/Woof
  • Colored Spade/Hud & Tribe
  • Manchester, England/Claude & Tribe
  • Ain't Got No /Tribe/Hud, Woof, Dionne & Tribe
  • Dead End/Tribe Quartet
  • I Believe in Love/Sheila Franklin/Tribe
  • Ain't Got No Grass/Tribe
  • Air/Jeanie, Dionne, Crissie
  • Initials/Tribe
  • Manchester, England (reprise) /Claude
  • I Got Life/
  • Initials/Tribe
  • Going Down/Berger & Tribe
  • Hair/Claude, Berger & Tribe
  • My Conviction/Margaret Mead
  • Sheila Franklin (reprise)/Tribe
  • Easy to be Hard/Sheila
  • Don't Put It Down/Woof, Berger & Tribe
  • Frank Mills/Crissie
  • Be In "Hare Krishna"/Tribe
  • Where Do I Go/Claude & Tribe
Act Two
  • Electric Blues/Quartet
  • Oh Great God of Power/Tribe
  • Black Boys/White Girls Trio
  • White Boys/The Supreme Trio & White Boys Trio
  • Manchester(reprise) /Claude & Tribe
  • Walking in Space/Tribe
  • Abie, Baby/Tribe Quintet
  • The War/Tribe
  • Three-Five-Zero-Zero/Tribe
  • What a Piece of Work Is Man/Ronnie & Walter
  • How Dare/Tribe
  • Good Morning Starshine/Sheila & Tribe
  • Ain't Got No (reprise)/Tribe
  • The Flesh Failures/Claude
  • Let the Sunshine In/Tribe
  • Eyes Look Your Last/Sheila, Dionne & Tribe
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