The Cultural Tourist, NYC: ‘Hair’

Greetings from New York, where I’ll be spending a few days blogging about entertainment on Broadway and beyond as part of a Creative Renewal Grant from the Arts Council of Indianapolis.

Click here for more info—and for an account of a recent Washington, D.C., trek.

First stop, a revisit to the Broadway revival of “Hair.” Reopening for a summer (of love) run, the 2009 production remains in strong shape, despite only one of the leads still with the show (the radiant Kacie Sheik at Jeanie, the pregnant one).

Seeing it two years ago, I commented: “I'm very pleased to report that the musical groundbreaker's latest incarnation isn't a plotless nostalgia piece for aging hippies (which it could have been). Nor is it an over-romanticized vision of a complex, turbulent period (which it also could have been). Instead, it's a hugely satisfying piece of theater. The terrific score (including hits "Aquarius" and "Let the Sun Shine") is intact, but time—and the talented production team—have rendered it more powerful with an added layer of truly moving melancholy. When the tribe demands "Peace now/Freedom now," their optimism, anger, disappointment, confusion and sadness are palpable.” I stand by all of that in the latest incarnation.

In the revisit, Paris Remillard takes over as the conflicted Claude, and while he doesn’t possess as strong as voice as Gavin Creel, he feels more natural in the part. And his transformation at the end is shocking and powerful. Steel Burkhardt (no, not everyone on Broadway has a porn name) keeps the obnoxious Berger from being too alienating. Matt DeAngelis is a winningly sweet Woof contrasted with Darius Nichols as a hardened Hud. And Josh Lamon might as well be three different actors, creating sharp and nuanced personas for his tribe member, Claude’s Dad, and the note-stretching Margaret Mead.

Except for Sheik, the women are strong but don’t pop in the way that this productions original cast did. Kaitlin Kiyan has a golden voice as Chrissy, but her solo spot, the charmingly wispy “Frank Mills” needs vulnerability, not vocal smoothness. Caren Lyn Tackett’s toughened Sheila effectively holds her own again Berger, but comes across way too old for the part.

Still, “Hair” grows for me with each production. Again, I found myself moved in surprising moments, aching as these raggedy individuals struggle with the limitations of their flesh, try to change the world with their voices, and stumble toward finding peace with a world where death may be just a draft card away.
I’d see it again this week if schedule permitted. But there’s a lot of other things to see. Stay tuned for my thoughts on “Priscilla Queen of the Desert,” “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” and more.

Your thoughts?

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