‘Hair’ reprise a rewarding event
A “sixties delight” returns to the Mainline Theatre
By Byron Toben
In The Wings Promotions’ reprise of its last November show of Hair – The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical warranted one of my rare second viewings.
My original review, which follows this introduction, stands. The only change is the reduction of the cast of 17 to 16, of which 15 are from before, as are the four musicians.
All this in 2017, the 50th anniversary of the off Broadway show, which, under the efforts of Chicagoan Michael Butler, went on to Broadway success, Tony awards, cross country troupes and great success in other counties around the world.
Visiting great comedian Jack Benny, upon viewing a 20-second nude cast moment in a London production, quipped, “I wonder if the audience noticed if any members of the cast were Jewish”.
In The Wings Promotions’ reprise of… Hair – The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical warranted one of my rare second viewings.
Youthful rebelliousness is now forever associated with producer Butler, writers Gerome Ragni and James Rado and Montreal born composer Galt MacDermot.
Although Ragni died in 1991 at only 61, the others are still going strong… Rado at 85, MacDermot at 88, and Butler at 90. Protest seems good for longevity!
In this reprise, I felt that the punchy choreography by Nadia Verrucci was even further fleshed out than eight months ago. She confirmed that she had “tightened it up a bit”. I was gratified that “two left feet” me had noticed this.
As in the original 50 years ago, the audience is invited onto the stage at the finale to rock’n roll with the cast.
‘Hair’ continues at the Mainline Theatre until September 9.
Original rock musical a sixties delight
‘Hair’ at the Mainline Theatre revives the Age of Aquarius
By Byron Toben
In 1967, Montreal was revelling in the golden year of Expo.
This coincided with the dawning of the age of Aquarius off-Broadway in Manhattan with the opening of Hair – The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical. Hair finally hit Broadway, the movies and encouraged about 100 other rock-based musicals over the years. Jesus Christ-Superstar, Godspell, Grease and The Wiz come to mind.
This anti-Vietnam war, free love, pot-smoking, hedonistic classic was last presented in Montreal 31 years ago at the Spectrum Theatre for three days. Thanks to Noelle Hannibal and her In The Wings Promotions, it was re-mounted for an all too brief four-day run last week at the intimate Mainline Theatre.
Ms. Hannibal had recently produced fine local concert versions of Chess and The Who’s Tommy that really, well, rocked. This time, she opted for a full-scale production.
Somehow, I have had a deprived adulthood and had never seen Hair before. The anti-establishment feel of then still resonates today with movements like Occupy and Black Lives Matter.
This intriguing show has some key Canadian content in the person of McGill grad Galt MacDermot who composed the music after meeting book and lyric authors Gerome Ragni and James Rado. He was himself crew cut with a wife and four kids and a house on Staten Island when he collaborated with these two longhaired extroverts from the East Village.
This intriguing show has some key Canadian content in the person of McGill grad Galt MacDermot who composed the music…
Most Broadway musicals average 16 songs. Hair has 32. This many leave few moments for spoken dialog so the plot advances through intricate sinuous stage movement and dancing. This was wonderfully delivered by director/choreographer Nadia Verrucci, who confided to me that she too had never seen the show before. I was gratified to confirm that her handling of these tasks was in the spirit of the original Director, Tom O’Horgan.
The 17 person cast features 8 principals and 9 ‘tribe’ members with nary a weak spot among them.
Claude, the pacifist who eventually dies in Viet Nam (originally played by Mr Rado) is here Mathieu Samson. This character, for reasons never explained, hails from Manchester, England, the tile of one of his songs, which include I Got Life and Where Do I Go?
Berger, the wild spirit (originally played by Mr Ragni) is here Franco Decrescentis, big on Going Down.
Jeannie, another friend, is Rosie Callaghan, featured in Air.
The tribe harmonizes beautifully with the key refrains of Hair and Aquarius.
The large cast was energized by the musical chords and beats of the band led by musical director Ian Baird (Keyboard) with Sebastian Balk-Forcione (Drums), James Parm (Guitar) and Alex Kaiser-Smilbert (Bass).
‘Hair’ ran at the Mainline Theatre from November 23 to 26.
Images: Diane Dupuis
Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club