When Gerome Ragni, James Rado and Galt MacDermot dreamed up Hair in the late 1960s, they wanted to reflect the truths of hippie culture, provoke thought on an array of social issues and, of course, entertain the paying customers.
Almost 4 1/2 decades later, the joyous, groovy, sobering show is still fulfilling its creators’ intent.
Now at Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and bound for the Broward Center next week, the Tony Award-winning revival of Hair serves as a boisterous, in-your-face kickoff to a summer that hopefully will be filled with more peace and love than conflict and hurricanes. As staged by hot director Diane Paulus and choreographer Karole Armitage, Hair is faithful to its concept-musical roots. In other words, the show is more thrilling vintage concert than a piece that bothers with a strong start-to-finish story.
Hair flows around the travails of Claude (Paris Remillard), a long-haired kid with nagging parents and a bad draft number in the Vietnam era, when young men in the United States could be forced to fight in an unpopular war half a world away. For Claude and the members of his hippie “tribe,” free love, activism and mind-blowing drugs sound much more appealing.
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Will Claude serve? Burn his draft card? Flee to Canada? Those questions make for the totality of suspense and conflict in Hair, though the show ends with an image that is as intensely moving as anything you’d see in the greatest drama.
What Hair has in abundance are infectious, well-known songs performed by a handsome cast with great voices. So what’s not to like?
Not much, unless you’re one of those interactive theater phobics who gets nervous when the fourth wall comes crashing down. That happens a lot in Hair, so if you’re in an aisle seat near the front of the orchestra section, be prepared. I’m usually one of those leave-me-alone haters, but on opening night Berger (Steel Burkhardt) trailed his fingertips over the crown of my ’do as he passed by. He’s the alpha male of hotties in the show, so, woo-hoo!
With conductor-keyboard player David Truskinoff and a tight, fabulous band delivering concert-level music, the strong actor-singers work their way through a score immortalized on the show’s hugely successful original-cast album.
Preening and grinning, Burkhardt is a guy on the make in Donna, the leader of the pack on Hair and other songs, the show-off part of a love triangle also involving Claude and the passionate activist Sheila. She’s played by Caren Lyn Tackett, a belter who shows her range on the aching Easy To Be Hard and a playful Good Morning Starshine. As Claude, the appealing Remillard is funny (on Manchester, England), joyful (on I Got Life) and touching (on the Hamlet-inspired What a Piece of Work Is Man). Other standouts are Phyre Hawkins as big-voiced Dionne, Darius Nichols as the artfully confrontational Hud, Kacie Shiek as way-preggers Jeannie, Cailan Rose as the Frank Mills-hunting Crissy and Josh Lamon as a most surprising theatergoer.
Though not for today’s actual kiddies — the cast stands proud and naked at the end of the first act, much of Armitage’s choreography is baldly sexual, and there is that song titled Sodomy — Hair, for anyone else, is no mere blast from the past. It’s a blast, period.