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Review: 'Hair' gives current youth generation an excellent history lesson

Hud, played by Darius Nichols, foreground, leads by example as audience members take the stage to dance and sing at the close of Tuesday’s performance of Hair at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Hud, played by Darius Nichols, foreground, leads by example as audience members take the stage to dance and sing at the close of Tuesday’s performance of Hair at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa.

TAMPA

Jupiter must be aligned with Mars because Hair fans have enjoyed an embarrassment of riches lately. First there was American Stage's excellent production in the park last spring. Now the tour of the Tony Award-winning revival of "the American tribal love-rock musical" is at the Straz Center, where it opened Tuesday night. Here are a few things that crossed my mind while taking in the show (and hoping one of the tribe didn't stand on top of my seat).

No fourth wall: Never has a Broadway show done more to break down barriers between performers and audience, and director Diane Paulus is true to the tradition in her exuberant staging. Members of the tribe often make their way into the orchestra section of the Morsani Hall auditorium, entering and exiting up the aisles, even appearing in the galleries. Berger (Nicholas Belton) strips and heads into the crowd: "Can I have a hug?" he asks. As a finale, the tribe invites the audience to join Let the Sun Shine In, and the stage fills with people.

Music, music, music: Is there any other Broadway musical that has so many songs? Forty musical numbers are listed in the playbill. Galt MacDermot's hummable score includes iconic songs — Aquarius, Hair, Good Morning Starshine, Let the Sun Shine In — but it's also a blast to hear the lesser gems, such as Crissy (Kaitlyn Kiyan) singing of her love for Frank Mills. Sheila (Caren Lyn Tackett) has the best voice, with her perverse torch song, Easy to Be Hard.

To be or not to be: Claude, superbly played by Paris Remillard, is the hippie Hamlet, tormented over whether to burn his draft card in Where Do I Go?

Nonsense words: Stephen Sondheim doesn't have anything to worry about, but I still love the goofy lyrics of Hair's songs, especially the chorus for Good Morning Starshine:

Gliddy glup gloopy nibby nabby noopy la la la lo lo

Sabba sibby sabba nooby abba nabba le le lo lo

Tooby ooby walla nooby abba nabba

Early morning singing song

You could win a karaoke contest with that. There's also some terrific trumpet playing during the song.

Highlights: Hair was never known for great dance, but Karole Armitage's choreography for the revival is witty and fresh, such as the funky little moves done by the Tribe during Ain't Got No. David Truskinoff leads the crack 10-piece band, positioned on top of a truck and in assorted nooks and crannies of Scott Pask's psychedelic set. Kevin Adams' lighting is dazzling.

Lowlights: The tourist named Margaret Mead (cross-dressing Josh Lamon) overstays her welcome. Claude's hallucination in Act 2 goes on too long.

Youthquake: I think Hair should be required viewing for teenagers. Sure, there is profanity, nudity and sex, but that's kind of the point, as in the sweetly sung hymn, Sodomy. Young people in the '60s had to deal with tough issues, including the Vietnam War and the draft, and Hair helped to change things. Young people today also face challenges, such as recession and endless war in the Middle East, and the politics are trickier now. They also have inherited a youth culture that has become trivialized since the days of Hair. Young people could learn a lot from this show about how theater can make a difference.

John Fleming can be reached at fleming@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8716.

. fast facts

'Hair'

The musical, with book and lyrics by Gerome Ragni and James Rado and music by Galt MacDermot, has six performances through Sunday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, Tampa. Run time: 2 hours, 35 minutes, including intermission. $38.50-$75.50. (813) 229-7827 or toll-free 1-800-955-1045; strazcenter.org.

Review: 'Hair' gives current youth generation an excellent history lesson 05/25/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 25, 2011 11:19pm]
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