Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Long Beautiful Hair - By Jack Melichar

Tremendous, extraordinary, a howling success – the English language just does not have an adjective that properly describes Arizona Theatre Company's production of HAIR that opened last Friday night. It's been forty years since the musical appeared on Broadway, and it has not lost any of its power to entertain and cause the audience to think (think! Can you imagine that?). Music from the production still survives, Aquarius, Hare Krishna, and Good Morning Starshine.

Hair has no plot but is rather a series of scenes about life in the 60's – a time of great turmoil for the nation in general, and young people in particular. The "Tribe" is a group of politically active, long-haired "Hippies of the Age of Aquarius" fighting against conscription to the Vietnam War and living a Bohemian life together In New York City. Claude, portrayed by Kyle Harris, (who, by the way, has a BA degree in Musical Theatre from the U of A), his good friend Berger (Joey Calveri), and their roommate (and bed mate) Sheila (Morgan James), and all their friends struggle to balance their lives, loves and the sexual revolution with their pacifist rebellion against the war and the conservative impulses of their parents and society (1948 vs. 1968). After receiving a letter whose salutation was "Greetings" ( the draft notice), Claude must decide whether or not to resist, as his friends have done, and this becomes a dilemma for all of them.

The cast in this production does a superb job, not only the central characters, but the members of the "Tribe" as well. They behave on stage as I recall young people behaving in that era. They were joyful. They were frightened. They were trusting with each other but not so much with anyone else ("don't trust anyone over 30"). The staging was something out of a bad trip on LSD, and was very effective. Thank you John Ezell. Kudos also to Christopher McGovern (Musical Director), and Kish Finnegan (Costume Design), as well as Michael Gilliam, Abe Jacobs, and especially David Ira Goldstein (Director) who molded this cast to produce a spectacular show.

There were two unexpected events which caught my attention. Hud (Kyle Taylor Parker) was singing Colored Spade, and when he came to "I'm the President of the United States ..., the audience erupted into cheers and clapping, not allowing him to complete the verse "of love"! The second occurred when a middle aged woman and her husband – tourists in a land of hippies – talk to the group. Claude, Berger, and the rest of the Tribe sing Hair for them. The woman, impressed, sings My Conviction, then lifts her skirt to god and the world to show that she is not a she at all, but a transvestite! Most interesting, eh?

The Temple of Music and Art was sold out for this performance, and at the end, 622 pairs of hands clapped for what seemed like 10 minutes (it may have been less, but my hands still smart) as the audience rose for a standing ovation. The interest in this production has been so great that the Tucson run has been extended through December 23. I have reviewed many fine plays produced by ATC, but this was far and away the best. I urge you, I beg you, I plead with you, oh, hell, I order you not to miss this one! For more information or to purchase tickets, contact the box office at (520) 622-2823 or go online to arizonatheatre.org.

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