Saturday August 19th 2017

“Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical” 50th anniversary celebration!

It is hard to believe that it has been over 50 years since “the American Tribal Love-Rock Musical HAIR” came alive and rocked the world of “Musical-Comedy”. With a book by Grome Ragni and James Rado who also write the lyrics and music by Galt MacDermot, “Hair” was a concept that was a sign of the times. Viet Nam was “happening” despite the protests of those who were facing a war that was not wanted, young men were being drafted (no longer a term in our vocabulary) and many got married and had a child to avoid the draft, while others enrolled in school to further their education. Yet, there were those who burned their “draft-cards” and ran to Canada to escape the war that they did not want to be in.

This was the  1960’s. A time for love! A time for drugs! A time for sex (whenever and with whoever)! The book itself is a celebration of humanity and the rights of young men and women who were afraid of what was in store for them. Who knew anything about the “enemy” that was waiting to change our lives? In 1967 (yes, 50 years ago, and hard to believe, not one person in this brilliant cast was alive or knows very much about what this war was all about) and our set indicates that we are in Greenwich Village, a hippie hangout in New York. These hippies will explore everything: love, sex, rock n’ roll as they fight for their civil rights and the end of the war that no one wanted or understood, Viet Nam! I lived in this period. In fact, by the time this play takes place, I had already been married and had several friends who were lost in battle. These young people, may have been a bit smarmy in their attitude and the drugs they used, but their concept that war was deadly, was true!

“Hair” is a passionate cry for help from those who were facing the future and what this war was about to bring. While it was a defining moment in our history for the teens and young adults of that period, it is still an inspiration today. Think about all the great progress our world has made, and yet, look at the racial situations as well as the treatment of those who are “different”. Can one say that our eyes are open wider than they were back then? No so sure, myself.

The Mercury Theater appears to be a great venue for this production in a much more intimate form than I have seen it before. Under the careful direction of Brenda Didier and cleverly choreographed by Chris Carter, this  Two Hour and Ten-minute production ( 2 acts with an intermission) is very sharp in manner and technique, grabbing the audience’s attention from the first minute to the very last (and even then, during the curtain call-no one wanted it to end). It is difficult NOT to fall in love with each and every character that comes to life in this play. Those of us from that period knew all of them! They were drawn from those we went to school with as well as socialized with. Let’s face it, each and every male out there feared getting that letter that started “Greetings:”!

The set (Jeffrey D. Kmiec) is delicious and filled with “stuff” that sets the scene for where we are and the people that we are exposed to. It is the music ( “Aquarius”, “Donna”, “Manchester, England”, “I Believe In Love”, “A’int Got No Grass”, “I Got Life”, “Hair” “Hare Krishna”, “Where Do I Go” (leading up to the end of act one with every cast member disrobing on stage except one-Claude) and these are the musical pieces in the first act alone! Just to bring back a few memories from the past, “Good Morning Starshine” and 16 other songs appear in this show, which in many ways is more like a musical concert with a story-line rather than a story with music.

Despite the story being 50 years old, and the war in question long gone, the relevancy of the story seems to still be of great importance in today’s modern world. Yes, we know more than we could ever have back then. There was no computer in our pockets, but the concept of telling our young people this story as it was written may even be more daring today. Our young people have more knowledge of the world and politics and with social media, they can find out anything, anytime, anywhere!

Not to spoil the story for you, but I will tell you there is a shocking ending, and even though you may not appreciate it, the writers knew that this was the proper way to make the story fit the world we lived in at the time. The costumes  (Robert Kuhn) appeared to have come out of the closet of one of my relatives, sheer perfection, the lighting (Nick Belley) realistic, the sound (Carl Wahlstrom) allowed us to hear every effect and every note as well as the music from backstage (under the direction of Eugene Dizon, at the keyboards ).  These six musicians filled the mercury with the great sounds of this score and the cast- WOW!!!! The rest of the tech team are: Wig and hair design by Kevin Barthel and the prop design and procurement by Mealah Heidenreich.

Where do I start: A great number of these people have been in and around the Chicago scene, but for many, they have done smaller roles. Being in this cast truly shows they have earned their stripes and are ready to “soar to new heights”: Liam Quealy is a marvelous Claude and Matthew Keffer shows a whole new side of himself as he brings Berger to life. Evan Tyrone Marin is a beautiful Hud and Aaron M. Davidson brings Woof to a new level. I loved Craig Underwood and Caleb Baze in all of the roles they partook in. Michelle Lauto is a powerful Sheila (when she does “I Believe in Love”, you believe she does) and Lucy Godinez as Jeannie is a shining light once again. The adorable Leryn Turlington and the powerful Cherise Thomas  , who leads the tribe in “Aquarius” is amazing. The ensemble members, Chuckie Benson, Miciah Long, Andrew Lund, Candace C. Edwards, Mallory Maedke and Marco Tzunux fill out this powerful cast. I loved them!

“Hair” will continue at The Mercury Theater Chicago , located at 3745 N. Southport thru September 27th with performances as follows:

Wednesdays  8 p.m.

Thursdays  8 p.m.

Fridays  8 p.m.

Saturdays  3 and 8 p.m.

Sundays  3 p.m.

Tickets are from $30-$65 and can be purchased by calling 773-325-1700 or online at www.MercuryTheaterChicago.com, or at the box office. There are many dining spots on busy Southport, but we have found a great space adjacent to the theater (making it one-stop -parking) Grassroots (a farm -to- table experience) call773-325-1710

FYI- Not suggested for children as there is simulated drug usage and one scene does have total nudity, although very dimly lit as it is not for shock value, but better imagery.

 

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Hair”

Valet parking is available and while there is street parking, always check the baseball schedule (this is Cubbie territory)

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