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Street Theatre Company's 'HAIR In Concert' lets still-relevant themes shine in

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HAIR In Concert, Street Theatre Company, Nashville

Rating:
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Typically, when a theatre company mounts an 'In Concert' performance, it's very similar to a staged reading in that all the performers are onstage throughout the entire performance with only those participating in each scene/song stepping forward and taking the mic. That is blissfully not the case with Street Theatre Company's current production of 'HAIR In Concert', which opened Wednesday, December 4 and continues an all-too-brief run through Sunday, December 8. Street Theatre's Artistic Director, Cathy Street, who also serves as director of 'HAIR In Concert', offers up a traditional 'In Concert' production featuring so many talented vocalist it'll make your head swim like a good party on a Saturday night. But that's not all. Street cleverly has the singers costumed in hippie-centric clothes and hair, lots of hair. Their seemingly carefree movements are carefully choreographed with just the right amount of liquid movement and blissful facial expressions to imply an altered state,. Even though the performance is presented with minimal dialogue, the basic plot of a group of kids living together in a hippie commune and protesting the war while coming to terms with their own inner conflicts is easily and entertainingly conveyed through the music.
From the moment the audience enters the theatre, they begin their trip back to the late 1960's thanks to a sparse, but psychedelic set, pre-show tunes on the speaker system by the likes of Jefferson Starship and a sneak peek of some of the cast as they cavort on stage and through the audience. The show then opens with perhaps its most famous tune, 'Aquarius', which sets the pace for a night celebrating the era of anti-establishment, free-love, a thriving counter-culture and a generation of youth who took it upon themselves to think for themselves, rather than simply following in the footsteps and mindsets of their parents. The all-inclusive 'Aquarius' gets the night off to a powerful start as it features the entire 'tribe' of 20+ gifted vocalist.
Throughout the night, various members of the tribe are featured soloist. Up first is Russ Evers as George Burger, who seems to be one of the leaders of the tribe--although something tells me there are no leaders of the tribe. Burger, as the character is simply called, is featured first during 'Donna' an uptempo seemingly nonsensical ditty about a teenage boy looking for 'my Donna'--or is he really looking for answers to age-old questions about faith and religion? It seems at some points in the song the lyrics are actually saying 'looking for Madonna. 'If it is indeed a spiritual journey what better way, at least in the late sixties, than to turn to drugs for answers? 'Donna' is quickly followed by a slowed-down trippy tune, 'Hashish'.
When there's rock-and-roll and drugs, there's usually sex. 'Hair' doesn't disappoint. When 'Hair' made its debut off-Broadway in 1967 and its subsequent Tony-nominated and Grammy-winning Broadway debut a year later, the song 'Sodomy' and the accompanying scene depicting a variety of close encounters, was among the most talked-about. For Street Theatre's 'In Concert' depiction of the song, which features a newcomer to Nashville's theatre scene, Ben George as Woof, there's a bit of playful romping, but nothing too provocative. Baby-faced George is perfectly cast as the sexually-charged albeit ambiguously-oriented Woof. What's more, he's got a voice to go along with the look. He's also featured in 'Don't Put It Down' and as Margaret Meade, a hilarious turn in drag as a seemingly conservative tourist who happens upon the tribe for 'My Conviction'.
As a genuine fan of musical theatre, I'm always thrilled to see several of my 'theatre crushes' amongst the cast. That said, I was happy to see Piper Jones, Justin Boyd, Naeaidria Michelle Callihan, CJ Jordon, Elliott Robinson and my newest 'theatre crush' Ryan Greenawalt in the show.
Justin Boyd, who've I've adored since his portrayal as Harpo in Circle Players' 'The Color Purple', plays Hud. Backed by George and Evers and Greenawalt as Claude Bukowski, Boyd brings yet another social issue into focus with 'I'm Black/Colored Spade'. Art has always had a sneaky way of making the viewer think about uncomfortable subject matter. Throughout 'Hair', the seemingly light-hearted, over-the-top stereotypes presented in this song and others does just that. Much like Street Theatre's production of 'Caroline or Change', the audience may at times think 'oooh, maybe I shouldn't be enjoying this so much', but it's through the clever technique of laughing at the uncomfortable we develop a more comfortable dialogue for change.
Speaking of comfort, LaDarra Jackal brings much needed comfort in two of her three featured numbers the simple, but though-provoking 'I Believe in Love' and the upbeat poppy tune, 'Good Morning Starshine' are among the show's happiest moments. Even LaDarra's 'Easy to Be Hard' has an air of hopefulness.
Greenawalt's Claude takes center-stage for 'Manchester England'. In an obvious fake British accent, Claude attempts to pass himself off as something he's not. Yet another subtle social commentary just as relevant today as when 'Hair' debuted. He also shines in 'I Got Life', 'Where Do I Go?', the surprisingly haunting 'Eyes Look You Last'' and of course the show's titular track, 'Hair'.
Having previously seen Naeaidria Michelle Callihan in the aforementioned 'Caroline or Change', there was no doubt that she'd belt out each and every tune she's a part of. 'Ain't' Got No', 'Electric Blues', 'Black Boys/White Boys', 'Yes I's Finished/AbieBay' allow the audience to run the gamut of emotion and the literal show-stopper, 'Let The Sunshine In' simultaneously bring a tear to the eye and invigorates the spirit. When I left the theatre my heart was full and my mind was free.
'HAIR In Concert' continues its limited run through Sunday, December 8 with 8 p.m. performances Thursday-Saturday, a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m. and an early evening closing performance Sunday at 5 p.m. Tickets are $18 for Adults and $16 for Students and Seniors. This performance is rated R for adult content. For more information or to purchase tickets, CLICK HERE.
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