Highly Recommended **** The 1960’s were a wild and crazy time for young Americans. There was a war going on that most of us felt was wrong, and dodging the draft was expected and anticipated. In 1967 a new type of musical was born-“A Love Rock Musical” called “HAIR”, with a book and lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragni and music by Galt Macdermot. This was the ultimate “tribal” rock musical that looked at the drug scene, free love, anti-war and almost every situation where a young person could rebel against his or her parents, authorities ,and anyone else who may have made some of society’s rules. I was around during this crazy time and saw it all take place!
“Hair” is not staged often as it is a difficult show to perform and filling audiences can be a chore due to language and the theme. Last year a sterling production was done at Paramount Theater in Aurora, so I was surprised to see Big Noise Theatre Company announce that this would be on their schedule for 2015. This company, one that does excellent work and takes on some heavy duty challenges, was reaching for the stars on this one. But then I saw that Stacey Flaster would be directing their production and knew that under her guidance and skillful eye, they would bring to their stage in Des Plaines, a quality performance. That they did!
What is odd about watching this Tony Award winner (best Musical 1968 and best revival 2009) is that the majority of the people involved with this production were not even a glimmer in their parents’ eyes when this “Rock Opera” took America by storm. Musical numbers such as the opening song “Aquarius”, “Hare Krishna”, “I Got Life”, “Good Morning Starshine”, “Hair” and almost 30 others take us on a journey through the eyes of these young protesters, and for two hours and thirty minutes, we are given a history lesson for the younger audience members and a walk down memory lane for people who are of my age.
Flaster uses the set designed by Rick Paul to perfection making sure that the sight lines are good from every seat in the house. Matt Kooi’s lighting is steady and the sound is crystal clear, which in anything “rock” can often be anything but, so thanks Michael J. Patrick. Due to the times and the story, wigs are a very important part of this production so David Lundholm, who also did the costumes (I think he may have raided my brother-in-law’s closet), Great work!
The choreography was done by Carrie Weis and the musical direction by Jeffrey Poindexter, who also conducts the six musicians, who make the music the way it should be done, solid, man! There is a well-known end of the first act where the entire cast strips naked. I was waiting to see how Flaster would get through this in a theater that is located in a park district building in the heart of the Northwest suburbs. You will be amazed at the technique she used to do all that is supposed to be done, but with style and grace as well as dignity. I loved it!
This production cannot work unless the cast is into it, and it was very evident that this fairly young cast understood the story and the music. That makes the show a much better experience for the audience as well as those onstage. The “TRIBE” as they are called has many members who are major parts of the story, such as Berger (Nic Eastlund, who seemed mis-cast at first, but grew on me), Sheila (the delightful Haley Jane Schafer), Claude (deftly handled by Taylor Okey), Hud (stylish characterization by Darius Colquitt) Jeanie (Mary Kate Young is superb) ,Crissy ( Melanie Frewen has a great range) ,Maragret Mead (D Rothbart, quite the comic) and Woof (well played by Patrick Stengle).
The rest of the Tribe/ensemble is composed of:
Roy Brown, Caitlin Boho, Jonas Davidow, Tavia Hunt, Quentin King, Jennifer Lenius, Jacob McKenzie, Brian Mengler, Noreen Patel, Dustin Rothbart, Chris Selefski, Alison Stake, Amy Stricker, Jessica Vann, Janelle Villas, Robert Lee Williams and Missy Wise. All solid performers who make this production the sparkling one it is! While there are many that classify these types of productions as “community theatre”, this is far above that status with some of the talent that we will see move on to our Equity companies in the years to come. This one is worth the trip to Des Plaines!
“Hair” will only be performing through May 9th with performances on
Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m.
Tickets are $28 ( $23 for adults) they can be purchased by calling 847-604-0275 or online at www.bignoise.org
Performances are at Prairie Lakes Theater located at 515 E. Thacker in Des Plaines. This is just south of Golf Road and West of Wolf Road with plenty of free parking.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “hair”